Emerson reports four new positive COVID-19 tests, weekly total up to 16

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Media: Zhihao Wu

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

By Charlie McKenna and Andrew Brinker

The college reported four new positive COVID-19 test results among community members Saturday, pushing the college’s weekly testing total to 16, and positivity rate for the week to .47 percent, by far the highest marks to date in a single week. 

The four new positives, which came from tests administered on Thursday and appeared on the college’s dashboard Saturday, follow 12 new positives reported across Monday and Tuesday. Ten of the positives came from tests administered on Monday, with four on-campus students, four off-campus students, one faculty member, and a vendor testing positive.

The sixteen positive results this week account for one-third of the total positives reported by the college since testing began in early August. 

The update comes after administrators noted a delay at the Broad Institute, the facility responsible for providing and processing tests from Emerson and other area universities. The Broad typically takes between 24 and 48 to process a test, but the institute received a record number of tests Thursday, pushing the expected processing time to 36-48 hours. 

On Friday, the Broad had not updated the system that feeds data to the college’s dashboard, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp said in an interview Friday. 

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“The feed has not been fixed by the Broad,” he said. “We do not have the dashboard data to update yet but we are actively working on it. It is out of our control though, [because] the Broad system is slow to update that piece of it, and we’re working with them to get the other feeds up so we can update the dashboard”

Administrators were not notified of any new positive results as of 2:50 p.m. Friday Muurisepp said. 

Emerson’s current seven-day average positivity rate of .47 percent is notably higher than rates reported in previous weeks. Prior to this week, the seven-day average rate has hovered around .1 percent—reaching a high of .15 percent and a low .03. 

Coronavirus cases have ticked up at other local colleges in recent weeks. Suffolk University’s seven-day average positivity rate sits at .51 while Boston College’s sits at .66 percent. The state’s higher education positivity rate has risen this month as well from 0.12 percent to 0.34 percent.

The spike in positives amongst community members accompanies state and nationwide surges in new coronavirus infections. On Saturday, Massachusetts reported 2,991 new coronavirus cases—the sixth time in a week cases topped 2,000. 

On-campus classes are set to end on Nov. 24 with residence halls closing the next day at 12 p.m., marking the end of the college’s in-person semester. Over the next week, students will head home for Thanksgiving, and experts have warned that travel may accelerate the spread of the virus.

Tests administered Friday are still being processed by the Broad, Muurisepp said in an email to community members Saturday evening. It is unclear if results from those tests will be reported before Monday, as the dashboard is not typically updated on weekends.

 Muurisepp encouraged students to continue to adhere to  COVID-19 safety protocols, “regardless of test result.”

“As always, regardless of test result you should always be wearing your face covering when out of your private residence/room, avoid gatherings, keep socially distant and practice good hand hygiene,” the email read.