Emerson reports 228 positive cases within 10 day period


Hongyu Liu

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

By Adri Pray

An unprecedented 228 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported at Emerson in the ten days since the commencement of the spring 2022 semester.

Cumulatively, Emerson has administered 5,015 tests since Jan. 3, and currently reports the positivity rate at 4.55 percent.

The college saw six positive cases on Wednesday of the 244 administered, setting the daily positivity rate at 2.46 percent. Wednesday’s report marks the lowest number of single-day cases reported by the college since the fall semester.

On Jan. 6, “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp sent out an email stating students should expect to receive COVID-19 test results from the Tufts Medical Center closer to 48 hours after taking the test instead of the typical 24 due to the shortage of COVID-19 tests in the United States.

Several updates were made to the Emerson COVID-19 dashboard because of the 48 hour delay on testing results. Monday now reports 40 positive tests with a daily positivity rate of 3.54 percent and Tuesday’s numbers reflect 15 positive cases and has a daily positivity rate of 2.96 percent.

The college’s dashboard also reported that four community members were in on-campus isolation on Tuesday. 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.

Massachusetts reported 18,721 positive cases on Thursday, down from the 22,184 reported Wednesday. The death toll rose by 36.

The state reported 3,180 hospitalizations on Thursday, with 1,505 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. Thursday’s numbers showed a slight dip in the seven-day positivity rate without higher education institutions for 24.53 percent. Including higher education, the rate currently sits at 20.34 percent.

Massachusetts reported 41,430 new vaccinations—including boosters—bringing the state’s total to 13,153,045. Thursday’s weekly vaccination update reported that 5,137,794 Mass. residents—approximately 74 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. 

A Tuesday night communication updated existing COVID-19 guidelines and confirmed Jan. 18 as the date to return to in-person instruction. The Dining Center will continue to offer a grab-and-go option through Jan. 24.

Students will also be expected to test twice a week for the foreseeable future and have been asked to refrain from gathering indoors and in large groups through Jan. 24.

To comply with the updated testing protocol, Tufts Medical Center will be open to all Emerson community members on the following Saturday dates: Jan. 15, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., college officials announced in an email late Tuesday night.

The testing center will be closed every Sunday in January, as well as Monday, Jan. 17 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Emerson shifted from a manual data reporting process to an automatic one on Oct. 13. The decision followed a Beacon investigation that revealed a string of inaccuracies in the data reported by the college. 

The college’s dashboard is updated daily Monday through Friday. When it was first launched in August, the college opted for weekly updates before eventually shifting to twice weekly and then daily updates. Tabs for hospitalizations and the number of “invalid” results received by community members have since been removed from the dashboard after testing began in August. Invalid results are typically a result of user error and require re-testing. 

Administrators said in August the decision to remove hospitalizations was part of an effort to increase transparency, as the college was concerned it could not accurately track the metric. Invalid results were deemed “not valuable” data by “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp. 

The dashboard is not updated on weekends because Emerson’s testing site at Tufts Medical Center is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.