Emerson reports 18 COVID-19 cases, spring semester hails case-count record

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Photo: Charlie McKenna

Positive COVID-19 cases by semester.

By Adri Pray, Assistant Express News Editor

Emerson saw record COVID-19 numbers during the Spring 2022 semester. Outbreaks, new variants, and policy changes contributed to the cautionary campus environment over the past four months.

Between Jan. 3 and April 20, the college reported 761 COVID-19 cases of the 59,956 tests administered. Emerson will keep updating the COVID-19 dashboard until the Sunday before the end of the semester, May 1.

Students were expected to return to Emerson to begin the Spring 2022 semester by Jan. 10 to, what was temporarily, a virtual learning environment. On Jan. 11, “COVID Lead” Erik Müürisepp announced the college to be returning to fully in-person classes as early as Jan. 18.

The first week of the semester’s weekly analysis reported 167 positive cases from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9. The following week, Jan. 10 to Jan. 16, recorded an additional 134 positive cases, totaling 301 cases in the first two weeks of the semester. The case count per week during the spring semester lowered consistently following the first two weeks.

Compared to the three previous semesters during the pandemic, the Spring 2022 semester has 3.5 times as many COVID-19 cases as Fall 2021, 4.1 times as many cases as Spring 2021, and 12.6 times as many cases as Fall 2020.

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At the beginning of the semester, Emerson’s COVID-19 guidelines, as outlined in an email correspondence from Müürisepp and Interim President William Gilligan on Jan. 7, included shortening the quarantine and isolation period from ten days each to five and reiterated the requirement of masks in classrooms.

Four days later, the college confirmed the return to in-person classes to be Jan. 18, and didn’t update the policy again until Feb. 18, when the college announced the reinstatement of non-Emerson guests, and March 21 as the date the college would become mask-optional in all spaces except classrooms, Center for Health and Wellness, and Counseling and Psychological Services.

On April 13, Emerson announced policy updates going into effect May 16, including implementing a mask-optional policy in classrooms, an “isolate in place” model, and a switch to just symptomatic testing from surveillance testing.

Some students, however, reported feeling anxious and uncertain with these updated policies. The main concerns come with the relaxed mask and testing policies, as some said they “don’t feel safe” not knowing if they’re spreading COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Emerson reported 18 COVID-19 cases of the 1,078 tests administered, setting the daily positivity rate at 1.67 percent.

The college reported 21 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.

As of Jan. 3, Emerson has reported 761 positive cases and administered 59,956 tests. The cumulative positivity rate sits at 1.27 percent.

The state’s downward trend of COVID-19 cases continued on Wednesday as Massachusetts reported 1,853 positive cases for Tuesday, with a seven-day positivity rate of 4.34 percent. The death toll rose by 24.

The state updated the guidelines to qualify a COVID-related death. 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 373, with 226 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 positivity rate without higher education sits at 4.84 percent as of April 13. Including higher education, the rate sits at 4.34 percent as of April 19.

Massachusetts reported 14,882 new vaccinations—including boosters—from Tuesday to Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 14,366,539 doses. Wednesday’s daily vaccination update reported that 5,348,493 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.