Emerson reports six new positive tests, bringing cumulative spring total to 25


Photo: Diti Kohli

Emerson’s testing site is located at a Tufts Medical Center facility on the corner of Harrison Ave. and Kneeland St.

By Ann E. Matica, Deputy News Editor

Emerson reported six new positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday, out of 788 tests administered Monday, bringing the cumulative number of positives to 85. The college’s cumulative testing total sits at 56,128.

The college has now reported 25 positive tests within the first three weeks of the spring semester testing cycle, bringing the cumulative positivity rate to .49 percent. The last month of Emerson’s fall semester testing brought 28 new positives, compared to 32 over the course of the first three months of testing. The fall testing cycle’s overall positivity rate stood at 0.12 percent.

Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp said the 25 positive tests have come from a mixture of faculty, staff, vendors, on-campus students, and off-campus students. The college has not identified any on-campus transmission from these positive tests.

“Most of the cases, as to be expected, have all been caught in baseline testing,” he said. “So [its] people coming to campus already positive.”

He said that he is not concerned about a larger uptick in cases as long as members of the Emerson community continue to follow the college’s safety guidelines. Cases are continuing to surge nationwide and concerns have been raised about the viability of typical protective measures against the new U.K. variant of COVID-19.

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention report on Jan. 15 warned that the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. as early March, and is believed to be 50 percent more transmissive than current variants of COVID-19. There have been three confirmed cases of the variant in Massachusetts over the past two weeks.

“I would go back to everything we know that works, that’s why it’s critical to wear proper face coverings, that is why it’s critical that folks are keeping distance, avoiding gatherings,” he said. “The classroom experience and the on-campus experience is safe, it’s when everyone congregates in apartments or off-campus or social gatherings, restaurants things like that, that exposes and increases the risk.”

In-person classes are still slated to begin on Monday, Feb. 1 as planned, Muurisepp said.

Massachusetts reported 3,022 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a dramatic uptick from the 2,215 new infections reported Tuesday. The death toll rose by 83.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced in a press conference Tuesday that Boston would be moving up to Phase Three, Step One of reopening on Feb. 1. The new phase allows businesses, such as gyms, museums, movie theaters and sightseeing and organized tours, such as duck tours and whale watching, to reopen.

Boston regressed to Phase Two, Step Two on Dec. 15. Cases were averaging around 5,000 at the end of November and into December, in the last three weeks cases have dropped to an average of 3,000.

The state reports two COVID-19 positivity rates—one with higher education testing and one without. The seven-day test positivity rate with higher education removed sits at 4.6 percent Wednesday, down significantly from the 7.3 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 4.7 percent.

The state reported 1,930 total hospitalizations Wednesday, down from the 2,209 reported this time last week. Hospitalizations in the state have begun to decline in recent weeks, falling by a total of 289 since Jan. 12, after rising by nearly 300 week over week during much of November and early December.

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.