Emerson issues five-day isolation and quarantine protocols amid surge


Photo: Hongyu Liu

A sign of the COVID testing site of Emerson College and Tufts University.

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

Emerson will decrease its isolation and quarantine time to five days per guidance changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced college officials on Friday.

Effective Jan. 7, Emerson community members exposed to a positive case will be placed in a mandatory five-day quarantine. Students who receive a positive COVID-19 test result will also be placed into a mandatory isolation period, both a decrease from the previous 10-day mandated period observed throughout the past year and a half. 

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after the CDC changed its quarantine guidelines. According to the CDC, the coronavirus is the most transmissible during the early stages of the illness, around one to two days prior to symptoms, and two to three days after.

Students in quarantine will be permitted to stay in their residential spaces, however masks must be worn at all times except when sleeping and eating. Students may not attend in-person classes, eat in the Dining Center or other college eateries, or attend the fitness center or other college spaces while in quarantine. 

Post quarantine, students are expected to return to the college’s testing process: testing twice per week through the end of January at least.

For students placed in isolation, the date the positive is reported will act as day zero of the five-day requirement. If symptoms decrease or are gone on the sixth day, the community member may be released from isolation without the required antigen test.

Isolated students must wear a mask at all times except when eating or sleeping until the tenth day after testing positive. During this time, these students may not eat in the Dining Center, visit the fitness center, or attend close-proximity events.

If symptoms return for any individual during the four-day period, they must return to isolation immediately.

The reduced quarantine also comes amid surging cases of COVID-19 at Emerson and throughout Massachusetts, with symptoms of those infected being reported as “minimal to mild” due to the efficacy of vaccines and boosters, according to Interim President Bill Gilligan and “COVID Lead” and Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp.

According to the Emerson COVID-19 dashboard, 17 new positive COVID-19 tests were reported on Friday out of the 262 tests administered on Wednesday. Since Monday, Emerson has reported 83 positive COVID-19 tests, a positivity rate of 7.86 for the week thus far. 

This week’s results only add to the mass amount of cases being reported since the beginning of December. Since the week of Dec. 1, the college has reported 200 positive COVID-19 tests, the highest number of cases reported within a month since the college began its testing protocol in August of 2020. 

Mirroring this surge, Massachusetts saw 26,187 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The state also reported 55 deaths and 2,673 new hospitalizations.