Emerson reports 301 positives two weeks into spring semester


Hongyu Liu

Emerson’s testing site at Tufts Medical Center.

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

In just two weeks since the onset of the spring 2022 semester, Emerson has reported a cumulative 301 positive COVID-19 cases.

The college has administered 8,534 tests since Jan. 3, and currently reports the overall positivity rate at 3.53 percent.

Tuesday’s dashboard update reported 13 positive tests of the 604 administered on Saturday. Several updates were also made to the dashboard due to delayed testing results—an issue announced by “COVID Lead” and Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp on Jan. 6.

Thursday now reports 20 cases with a positivity rate of 2.05 percent Friday shows 19 positive cases with a 1.86 percent.

The college’s dashboard also reported that 47 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 56,480 positive cases on Tuesday, with the data coming from all tests conducted from Friday to Monday due to the state not reporting COVID-19 data over the weekend, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and an incorrect report being issued on Friday. The death toll rose by 47.

Hospitalizations saw a decline on Tuesday, with 3,192 hospitalizations being reported—1,558 of these hospitalizations occuring 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 has not been updated since Jan. 12 and currently sits at 23.09 percent. Including higher education, the rate currently sits at 17.44 percent.

Massachusetts reported 28,649 new vaccinations—including boosters—from Monday to Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 13,309,131 doses. Tuesday’s weekly vaccination update reported that 5,218,046 Mass. residents—approximately 76 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. 

On Jan. 14, the Biden administration announced the launch of the website, covidtests.org, for Jan. 19 which would enable Americans to order up to four free rapid COVID-19 at-home tests in lieu of the nationwide shortage.

The website, citing a “beta testing phase,” launched a day earlier than expected which proved the significant demand for these tests as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues its surge throughout the country.

College officials updated existing COVID-19 guidelines last week 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 Saturday Jan. 22 and Saturday Jan. 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., college officials announced in an email last week.

The testing center will be closed every Sunday in January.

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.