Emerson reports test result delays, Massachusetts adds 2532 new cases


Diti Kohli

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

By Charlie McKenna

Massachusetts reported 2,532 new coronavirus cases Thursday, down from the 2,744 infections reported Wednesday. The number of deaths fell from 47 to 27. 

New infections have steadily risen in the state since mid September. Monday was the first time cases dipped below 2,000 in a week. 

Single day case totals continue to hit highs not seen since the virus’s peak in late April. 

The state recently changed the way it reports COVID-19 positivity rates, separating higher education testing into its own category. The state’s seven-day test positivity rate with higher education testing removed sits at 5.24 percent, up from 4.42 percent a week ago.  

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are currently surging. On Wednesday, the state reported 917 total hospitalizations, compared to 500 this time last month.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged colleges to provide students travelling home for Thanksgiving with a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before their departure. Should a student test positive, their university should provide housing, the governor said.  

Emerson reported no new positive COVID-19 test results Thursday out of just 146 new tests administered on Nov. 17, leaving the college’s cumulative positive tests since Aug. 6 at 44. Emerson’s cumulative testing total sits at 45,767.

The college’s dashboard says the new data was reported at 12:09 p.m., however no new information appeared until later in the afternoon.

The Broad Institute, the facility responsible for processing COVID-19 tests from Emerson and other area schools, experienced delays in reporting results for tests taken on Nov. 18, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp told students in an email Thursday afternoon  

Emerson reported 12 new positive test results Wednesday, more than double the highest total of positive tests the college has reported in a single week to date. Ten of the positives came from tests administered Monday—four from on campus students, four from off campus students, one from a faculty member, and one from a vendor.

The surge in positives forced the college to impose a bevy of new restrictions on campus life—including the cancellation of all non-academic in person activities (in-person classes will still be held until Wednesday, Nov. 25).

The college 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. 

Emerson’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 have said 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 Muurisepp. 

The dashboard is not updated on weekends because Emerson’s testing site at Tufts Medical Center is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.