COVID-19 cases continue to climb on campus, semester-total at 588 positives

Emersons+COVID-19+testing+center.

Photo: Hongyu Liu

Emerson’s COVID-19 testing center.

By Adri Pray, Assistant Express News Editor

Emerson reported three COVID-19 tests on Wednesday of the 930 tests administered, bringing the daily positivity rate to 0.32 percent.

The college also reported 10 community members in on-campus isolation. Zero were reported to be in on-campus quarantine. 

Those in quarantine may have been exposed to COVID-19 but aren’t experiencing symptoms. Those in isolation are symptomatic, have produced a positive test, or are “reasonably known to be infected,” according to the college. Off-campus students are not counted in the quarantine and isolation numbers.

For the week of spring break, March 7 to March 13, Emerson reported three COVID-19 cases of the 648 tests administered, setting the weekly positivity rate at 0.49 percent.

In regards to the returning positives and those accumulated during the break, Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and “COVID” Lead, Erik Muurisepp, spoke calmly stating that the college was expecting them.

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“We know some folks while they were home, tested positive, and we were aware of that,” Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and “COVID” Lead Erik Muurisepp said. “I would say, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that we were not expecting, if anything, less than what we were expecting.”

However, if the college were to experience a sudden uptick in cases—like the one experienced during the week leading up to and weeks during winter break—Muurisepp and other college officials believe the college would only make minor policy readjustments to accommodate the increase.

“Our wish and desire is never to go into lockdown mode or into [a stay-in-room order],” Muurisepp said.

“Just because we’re following other city and state guidance for masking doesn’t mean [the mask policy] is gone,” he said. “That shift comes down to us as individuals to make sure that our community as a whole remains safe. I still have no worries about our shift to mask optional next week.”

In regards to the college’s current position, Muurisepp said he is “confident and comfortable” in moving into the direction of living with the virus.

As of Jan. 3, Emerson has reported 588 positive cases and administered 42,325 tests. The cumulative positivity rate sits at 1.39 percent.

Students are expected to continue to test once weekly, per updated COVID-19 guidance put in place Feb. 7.

The state’s upwards tick of COVID-19 cases continued on Wednesday as Massachusetts reported 725 cases for Tuesday, with a daily positivity rate of 1.53 percent. The death toll rose to 14.

The state updated the guidelines to qualify a COVID-related death Monday. The state now counts a COVID-related death if someone has died within 30 days of contracting the virus. The new definition decreases the death toll by 3,770 and includes 355 deaths and probable deaths not previously recorded. All newly reported deaths occurred prior to April 2021.

Hospitalizations went up as reported on Wednesday as the state reported 229, with 138 of these hospitalizations occurring in those who are fully vaccinated.

The state of Massachusetts also tracks two kinds of COVID-19 positivity rates—one including higher education testing and one without. The seven-day positive rate without higher education sits at 2.13 percent as of March 9. Including higher education, the rate sits at 1.53 percent as of March 15.

Massachusetts reported 4,889 new vaccinations—including boosters—from Tuesday to Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 14,030,213 doses. Wednesday’s daily vaccination update reported that 5,308,436 Mass. residents—according to Mass. Department of Health data, approximately 77 percent of the state’s population—are fully vaccinated, meaning that they have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Starting Mar. 21, Emerson will drop the indoor mask mandate following an update to COVID-19 protocol. Students will not have to wear a mask indoors in any college facility except for classrooms, the Center for Health and Wellness, and Emerson’s Counseling and Psychological Services offices.

Mayor Wu lifted the proof-of-vaccine requirement for all Boston residents citing the drop to previously established thresholds Feb. 18. Mayor Wu also dropped the masking requirement on Mar. 5 in close consultation with Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Dr. Bisola Ojikutu.