The school district is analyzing new CDC guidance on reopening.

WESTFIELD, NJ — The town’s coronavirus death toll climbed to 52 people with the passing of an 81-year-old man who had been hospitalized, the mayor said Friday.

Mayor Shelley Brindle reported 68 new cases of COVID-19 in Westfield Feb. 5 – 11, with 26 of those cases still being investigated by the Westfield Regional Health Department.

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The news comes as COVID-19 activity across the state declined, said Brindle, citing information from the regional health officer.

“For the first time in months, the entire state has not been categorized as an area of high activity,” Brindle said. “In fact, Westfield is now showing moderate activity, with the most highly impacted age group remaining between 10 and 19 this week.”

The teenage group represented 26% of the newly reported cases, she said.

The information from the health department comes as the Westfield Public School District asked K-8 parents to commit to either remote or in-person learning through April 19 on the same day the CDC released new recommendations for school openings.

Parents are asked to fill out a hybrid/remote transition request form at this link before Friday, Feb. 19, if they intend to make a switch, Superintendent Margaret Dolan wrote in a letter to parents.

“Please be honest. If you choose hybrid, yet your child stays home to learn remotely a majority of days, we cannot plan appropriately,” Dolan said. “It remains all about the guidance from the CDC and the number of students we can safely accommodate in our classrooms. We will use this data to help inform our decisions.”

The CDC guidance says that K-12 schools should be “the last settings to close” after employing all other mitigation measures in the community and that they should be “the first to reopen” when they can do so safely.

“At any level of community transmission, all schools have options to provide in-person instruction (either full or hybrid), through strict adherence to mitigation strategies,” the guidance says. “Recommended learning modes vary to minimize risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in school by emphasizing layered mitigation, including school policies requiring universal and correct mask use.”

Email Matt Kadosh at | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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