BOSTON (AP) — All public elementary schools in Massachusetts will be required to open for full-time, in-person learning by April 5, while middle schools will be required to do so on April 28, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Tuesday.

No reopening date was provided for high schools, but the department said districts would be given two weeks' notice and should start planning to reopen high schools now.

The announcement comes just days after state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley was given the authority to determine when hybrid and remote learning models will no longer count toward student learning hours across the state.

School districts can apply for a waiver if they do not think it's safe to open under the state's plan, but Riley said they would be given only “for a limited set of circumstances.”

Parents will also have the option to keep their children in a virtual learning model through the end of the school year.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has said reopening decisions should be left to local school committees.

About 20% of the state’s districts remain in remote-only learning.

Gov. Charlie Baker has announced that Massachusetts teachers will be eligible to register for a coronavirus vaccine starting Thursday, but warned that demand far exceeds supply.

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TRAFFIC EASES

A steep reduction in the amount of traffic on Boston-area roadways during the coronavirus pandemic has dropped the city from first to fourth on a list of the nation’s most congested cities, according to a new study.

Boston drivers lost 48 hours in traffic congestion in 2020, compared to 101 hours in 2019, according to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard released Monday.

The only U.S. cities with worse traffic last year were New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The most congested city in the world in 2020 was Bogota, Colombia, according to the study.

Fewer hours on the road led to more money in the pockets of commuters. Boston experienced one of the largest cost savings with drivers saving more than $1,000 due to the reduction in traffic delays brought on by the sharp drop in vehicle-miles traveled, according to the report.

Commuters shouldn't get used to less congestion and shorter commutes, Chris Dempsey of the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts told the Boston Herald.

“Whether we’re ranked first in the country or fourth in the country or 10th in the country, congestion is a problem that remains worth fixing,” he said.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 20 on Tuesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 16,123 since the start of the pandemic.

The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by about 1,000.

The true number of total cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were about 700 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 180 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 69. There were an estimated 27,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,690.

More than 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Massachusetts, including nearly 1.5 million first doses and more than 730,000 second doses.

Including the one-shot Johnson & Johnson doses, nearly 760,000 individuals have been fully vaccinated in Massachusetts.

Nearly 2.6 million doses have been shipped to the state.

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FREE COVID-19 TESTING EXTENDED

Massachusetts is extending a free COVID-19 testing program even as it ramps up the delivery of vaccine shots to millions of residents, health officials said Tuesday.

The free testing program at more than 35 locations across the state was scheduled to end on March 31 — but will now continue through the end of June.

Testing is one of the important public health tools — in addition to contact tracing, face coverings, physical distancing, and staying home when sick — that can mitigate the spread of COVID-19, health officials said in a press release.

Since the state began offering free testing in July, more than 1.8 million tests have been conducted at “Stop the Spread” locations. The total number of COVID-19 virus tests conducted statewide at all testing providers since the pandemic began is more than 16.8 million.

All state residents may visit the locations even if they don’t live in the town or city where the testing is being conducted.

Information on testing locations can be found at the state's testing website.