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Students Excited To Drop Masks In School After February Vacation

WESTWOOD (CBS) - "I'm going to take my mask off," said Elana Engel, a student at Downey Elementary School in Westwood. It was the Friday before February vacation, the last day she would be required to wear a mask in school.

"My kids are very excited, yes. They can't wait to be able to go to school without masks," said Marybeth Thornton, a mother waiting to pick up her kids.

Westwood is among several Massachusetts communities following the guidance from state education officials who say it will be safe to let students take masks off in school at the end of February. Some other districts, like Boston, are holding off to see what COVID looks like after vacation.

COVID numbers reported in schools have dropped dramatically. Back when students returned from the last break, which was winter vacation, 4.24 percent of all Massachusetts students tested positive. That number is now down to just .35 percent.

"Let's hope it stays that way, and it's reasonable to give this a go," said Dr. Paul Sax, Clinical Director of the Infectious Diseases Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

He said rapid home tests will be key to students' safe return. "Some people might argue that testing without symptoms even after coming back from vacation is reasonable to do. I would say that's only necessary if you've been around a lot of crowds, eating in a lot of restaurants, things like that with risk for higher transmission," he said.

Some parents, like Karen Fowler, are nervous about kids taking masks off so soon. She has a baby and toddler who aren't old enough to be vaccinated and worries about her five-year-old potentially bringing COVID home. "It's going to be a good thing," she said. "I just hope everybody gets vaccinated."

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