Emerson reports 5 new positives, 7-day total up to 31


Zhihao Wu

Emerson’s COVID-19 testing center at the corner of Kneeland Street and Harrison Ave.

By Frankie Rowley

Positive COVID-19 tests at Emerson continued to surge Tuesday, after the college reported five new positives from testing conducted on Monday — bringing the total number reported over the past seven days to 31. 

Emerson has seen an unprecedented spike in the number of positive COVID-19 test results since March 31, when seven positives were reported. In the days following, the number of positive tests skyrocketed, with seven positives reported on April 1 and eight on April 2. 

As of Tuesday, 19 students are in on-campus isolation and 27 are in on-campus quarantine, the highest number since at least early February. This time last week, one student was in isolation and three students were in 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. 

Despite the spike in positives, there has been no evidence of transmission due to classroom activities or residential dining, Vice President and Dean for Campus Life Jim Hoppe said in a Tuesday afternoon email. He urged heightened vigilance of COVID-19 safety regulations, and laid blame on circulating variants of the virus.

“Most activities that take place on a daily basis can continue to be done and offer minimal risk,” Hoppe wrote. “As these most recent cases illustrate, however, new strains of the virus are more easily transmissible, and it is important to be vigilant with safety precautions.  College staff will continue to monitor the situation on campus, and we will communicate quickly if additional safety measures need to be implemented.” 

After 12 positives were reported over two days in November, the college canceled all non-academic in-person activities for the remainder of the fall semester. Hoppe announced no such action in response to this surge of positives.

In recent weeks, the college has loosened room capacities in on-campus spaces like the Walker Building, 172 Tremont, and the Dining Center, marking the first lifting of pandemic-era restrictions. This came as cases in Massachusetts have begun to once again rise—topping 2,000 new daily cases eight times over the past 10 days after not hitting that marker regularly since early February. 

Following March 31’s seven positives, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp said in an email that the positives were linked and due to transmission within a group. According to a member of one of Emerson’s athletic teams with knowledge of the situation, this “cluster” was reportedly the women’s basketball team, with members of other athletic teams later being affected. 

Hoppe advised students to report any symptoms to the Center for Health and Wellness or to their health care providers, along with avoiding indoor group activities, large groups, and keeping open space in voicemail boxes for contact tracing. 

Massachusetts reported 1,566 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a significant decline from the 2,912 new infections reported Monday over a two-day period. The state did not release new case or death data due to the Easter holiday. The death toll rose by 12. 

Tuesday’s total marks the first day in five that cases have dipped below 2,000. Previously, cases surpassed 2,000 in eight of the past ten days, a benchmark that has not been cleared since early February.

The state reports two COVID-19 positivity rates—one with higher education testing and one without. On Tuesday the seven-day test positivity rate with higher education removed sat at 4.2, down from 4.3 last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 2.5 percent. 

The state reported 725 total hospitalizations Tuesday, up from the 711 reported this time last week. Hospitalizations have slowly begun rising over the past three weeks after declining substantially over the course of February and March following a spike amid the state’s wintertime surge. Last Thursday marked the first time hospitalizations reached 700 since March 4. 

On Tuesday, Massachusetts reported 81,281 new vaccinations, bringing the state’s total to 4,022,836. About 22 percent of the state’s population is now fully inoculated against COVID-19—meaning they have received both doses of the vaccines manufactured by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.   

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.