Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: September 16 to 22

Now that Boston University is publishing its COVID-19 testing data on a public-facing dashboard, Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research, and Judy Platt, director of BU Student Health Services, will provide a weekly update on the overall health of the BU community. They’ll explain how the testing systems are working, where the glitches are, and how well students, faculty, and staff are following protocols. This is their third weekly report.

Looking back on Boston University’s coronavirus testing results from September 16 to 22, Gloria Waters says it was a relatively uneventful week.

“We’d love to have a week like last week every week, where we have days with no positive results,” Judy Platt says.

In all, seven students and three faculty or staff tested positive over the seven-day stretch. Twelve students are in isolation. Undergraduates, long considered the highest-risk group for transmitting the coronavirus, make up about half of all BU cases, revealing the need for other segments of BU’s community to remain vigilant about following public health guidelines and adhering to the University’s testing protocols.

“About 50 percent of positive results so far have been in undergraduates, 30 percent in graduate students, and 20 percent in employees,” Waters says.

A number of the new cases this past week stemmed from a single off-campus household, Platt and Waters say.

“We remain concerned about students in off-campus housing situations where there may be higher numbers of people sharing a home,” Platt says. “At home, you don’t wear a mask or practice hand hygiene in the same way as you do outside your home. It’s hard to physically distance from others in your own house when you’re sharing bathrooms, kitchens, and the TV room.”

On campus, the biggest risks for transmission seem to occur around breaks or unstructured activities, such as having a meal or snack with others, Platt says. In contrast, classroom or work settings are more conducive to paying robust attention to hygiene and mask-wearing. “The setup of the classroom makes us less concerned than other settings on campus when people have to take breaks or eat,” Platt says.

So far, BU’s investigations into each new confirmed coronavirus case, as well as its contact tracing efforts, have not indicated a single instance of the coronavirus spreading inside a classroom.

“Case investigation doesn’t always reveal a clear source of infection,” Platt says, “but as of right now, keeping in mind classes have not been in session for that long, we don’t have any evidence of transmission in the classroom.”

Waters says the BU Clinical Testing Lab has adjusted to the rhythm of the BU community submitting their samples for testing. Likewise, the community seems to have gotten into the swing of the testing cadence. “We’ve hit our stride,” she says.

Starting next week, Waters says the BU COVID-19 dashboard will add a number that many in the BU community have been clamoring for-a weekly update on the number of individuals making up BU’s testing population, with a positivity rate calculated based on that denominator.

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