Emerson reports six COVID-19 cases for Wednesday, Muurisepp confident in college’s progress

Emersons+COVID-19+testing+center.

Photo: Hongyu Liu

Emerson’s COVID-19 testing center.

By Adri Pray, News Editor

On Wednesday, Emerson reported six COVID-19 cases of the 747 tests administered on Tuesday, setting the daily positivity rate at 0.80 percent.

The college also reported seven community members in on-campus isolation. Zero reported 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.

Between March 21 to March 27, 23 COVID-19 cases were reported of the 3,648 tests administered, bringing the weekly positivity rate to 0.63 percent.

As of Jan. 3, Emerson has reported 632 positive cases and administered 48,876 tests. The cumulative positivity rate sits at 1.29 percent.

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Students are expected to continue to test weekly, per updated COVID-19 guidance put in place Feb. 7.

The state’s upward tick of COVID-19 cases continued on Wednesday as Massachusetts reported 1,252 positive cases for Tuesday, with a seven-day positivity rate of 2.25 percent. The death toll rose by one.

From March 24 to March 30, Massachusetts reported an average of 965 cases and a seven-day percent positivity rate of 2.25 percent. The death toll was at an average of four per day.

The state updated the guidelines to qualify a COVID-related death last week. 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 down as reported on Wednesday as the state reported 210, with 124 of these hospitalizations occurring in those who are fully vaccinated.

For the week of March 24 and March 30, hospitalizations averaged at 157 per day.

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 sits at 2.65 percent as of March 23. Including higher education, the rate sits at 2.25 percent as of March 29.

Massachusetts reported 4,426 new vaccinations—including boosters—from Tuesday to Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 14,092,436 doses. Wednesday’s daily vaccination update reported that 5,321,722 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. 

Between March 24 and March 30, an average of 3,597 vaccinations were reported per day. 24,676 doses were administered over the course of last week, and 5,142 more Massachusetts residents reported being fully vaccinated.

Emerson dropped its indoor mask mandate on March 21 following an update to COVID-19 protocol. Students are no longer required to wear masks indoors in any college facility except for classrooms, the Center for Health and Wellness, and Emerson’s Counseling and Psychological Services offices.

Additionally, in a community-wide email sent last week, Muurisepp announced May 16 as the college’s anticipated date to adopt a mask optional policy in classrooms and other academic spaces.

“COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp said the college was happy following the COVID-19 numbers from the previous weeks, and was also happy with how students have been following the COVID-19 guidelines, noting the dropped mask policy in all spaces except classrooms, the Center for Health and Wellness and ECAPS.

“As I go about campus, I see more people with masks still than I see without, which is certainly helping and it does seem like folks are taking the decision upon themselves to still remain masked in most situations,” he said.

Muurisepp reminded students to remain aware of their surroundings, especially in close proximity to others.

“I was just reading that the BA.2 variant is increasing and just because we reduce some of our restrictions does not mean that it is not still present and so folks still making those good decisions, paying attention to symptoms that you feel,” he said.

Muurisepp declined to comment on the Fall 2022 COVID-19 plan, but said students would receive communication regarding next semester’s policies soon, as plans were almost final. He said the college will consider altering campus policy, such as masking, or the quarantine and isolation guidelines.

“As folks may still become positive over the summer or next semester and beyond, many institutions have made shifts and changes to their quarantine isolation process, so we’re looking at that too,” he said. “But we will get that information out certainly by the end of the term, if possible. If not, certainly for the fall.”

Mayor Wu lifted the proof-of-vaccine requirement for all Boston residents citing the drop to previously established thresholds Feb. 18. Mayor Wu also dropped the masking requirement on Mar. 5 in close consultation with Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Dr. Bisola Ojikutu.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot for people aged 50 and older and for some immunocompromised people to better protect against the coronavirus. Those eligible for the dose may receive it at least four months after their first booster.