Emerson reports six COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

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Photo: Hongyu Liu

COVID testing site locating at 116 Harrison Avenue.

By Adri Pray, Assistant Express News Editor

On Wednesday, Emerson reported six COVID-19 cases of the 870 tests administered, setting the daily positivity rate at 0.69 percent.

The college also reported 11 community members in on-campus isolation. 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.

For the week of March 14 to March 20, Emerson reported 22 positive cases from the 3,201 tests administered, bringing the weekly positivity rate to 0.69 percent.

As of Jan. 3, Emerson has reported 611 positive cases and administered 45,629 tests. The cumulative positivity rate sits at 1.34 percent.

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“I’m happy with where things stand,” said Associate Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp, who serves as the college’s “COVID Lead.” “Certainly, we have cases, but from an administrative perspective, I think we’re still doing really well, especially after Spring Break.”

Emerson dropped its indoor mask mandate on March 21 following an update to COVID-19 protocol. Students may forgo a mask indoors in any college facility except for classrooms, the Center for Health and Wellness, and Emerson’s Counseling and Psychological Services offices.

Following the updated protocol, Muurisepp sent a community-wide email last week announcing a mask optional policy in classrooms and other academic spaces starting May 16.

“Our goal was that by May 16, at the end of the summer term, we would be fully mask optional except for the Center for Health and Wellness,” he said. “That would be our last place where we will reduce mask requirements while getting through the next five weeks and then at that point, hopefully, things will be completely removed.”

The decision to transition to a full mask-optional campus after the summer term was a purposeful one, according to Muurisepp, as college officials felt postponing the fully mask-optional policy would better maintain the safety of the Emerson community.

“It’s a measured approach,” he said. “Just like we have been every few weeks for the whole semester—reducing our on-campus guest [restrictions], [increasing allowance of] visitors, and [altering] where masks are required or not required. We just wanted to keep them in the classroom.”

The updated protocol will see the disbanding of the “OneEmerson” COVID-19 team headed by Muurisepp. May 16 marks one of the final decisions the team will make before the COVID team works to “operationalize” the departments.

“While I believe we’ve not set the date, at some point over the summer, I think there’ll be less reliance on the local team,” he said, though reminded the community that the COVID team could be reinstated at any time if the pandemic worsens.

Massachusetts reported roughly 996 positive cases for the week of March 16 to March 23 per day, with an average positivity rate of 1.91 percent per day. The death toll rose by one for Wednesday.

The state updated the guidelines to qualify a COVID-related death Monday. 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.

For the week of March 16 to March 23, Massachusetts reported an average of roughly 225 hospitalizations per day.

The state of Massachusetts tracks two kinds of COVID-19 positivity rates—one including higher education testing and one excluding it. The seven-day positivity rate without higher education sat at 2.15 percent when last reported on March 16; including higher education, the rate sits at 1.91 percent as of March 22.

Massachusetts reported an average of 4,718 new vaccinations per day—including boosters—from March 16 to March 23. Wednesday’s daily vaccination update reported that 14,063,239 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. 

The new BA.2 Omicron variant, known commonly as “stealth Omicron,” accounts for 55.4 percent of COVID cases in New England, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The World Health Organization reports the BA.2 variant as “inherently more transmissible” than the Omicron variant. 

Muurisepp and other Emerson College officials are not worried about the variant at this time, but will adjust policy as needed.

“We are keeping an eye on that and working with Tufts, but we don’t see any need to change plans at this time,” Muurisepp said.