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Massachusetts Colleges Should Return To 'Near Normal' And Transition To Endemic, State Says

BOSTON (CBS) – State health and education leaders said in a letter to the presidents of Massachusetts colleges and universities that they should start returning to "near normal" with the goal "to transition the COVID-19 pandemic into an endemic."

Sec. of Education James Peyser and Sec. of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders sent the letter to public and private higher education presidents on Friday.

"Together, our goal must now be to transition the COVID-19 Pandemic into an endemic, a highly contagious virus that is manageable and allows us to regain a sense of normalcy," the letter said.

Read: Letter To Massachusetts Colleges And Universities

Peyser and Sudders pointed the rapid testing options, digital vaccine cards, and the state's high vaccination rate as tools that can help "navigate the careful transition into opening up our society while simultaneously employing public health mitigation strategies."

The letter warned colleges and universities about the "twindemic," which is the combined negative impact of COVID and social isolation.

"The impact of two years of social isolation, anxiety, stress and depression is profound and one we must confront and support individuals, their loved ones, and our community," the letter reads. "With virtually all students and staff vaccinated, higher education has the opportunity to lead -- transitioning back to 'near normal.'"

Though colleges and universities shifted to remote learning and took other actions early in the pandemic, officials said it is now time to adjust protocols.

"Now is the time to reconsider these protocols to help promote a return to healthy social interactions, including: remote learning; restricting or discouraging group activities; overly aggressive surveillance testing; and mask type requirements," the letter said.

Instead, colleges are urged to focus on people with symptoms and test positive for COVID, and those who are at high risk for serious illness.

Colleges are also asked to increase mental health services and address "widespread issues" of anxiety and depress that have been exacerbated during the COVID pandemic.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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