Emerson surpasses 350 COVID cases nearly three weeks into semester


Photo: Hongyu Liu

A sign of the COVID testing site of Emerson College and Tufts University.

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

On Thursday, Emerson’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 12 positive tests of the 972 tests administered on Wednesday, setting the daily positivity rate at 1.23 percent.

Thursday’s update also reported that 18 community members were in on-campus isolation. Zero were reported to be in on-campus quarantine. 

Those in the 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.

As of Jan. 3, Emerson has reported 358 positive cases and administered 11,987 tests. The cumulative positivity rate currently sits at 2.99 percent.

Several updates were made to the Emerson COVID-19 dashboard because of the 48-hour delay on testing results. Tuesday now reports 45 cases with a positivity rate of 1.81 percent.

The delay in results was announced on Jan. 6, via an email sent out by COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp stating students should expect to receive COVID-19 test results from the Tufts Medical Center closer to 48 hours after taking the test instead of the typical 24 due to the shortage of COVID-19 tests in the United States.

Massachusetts reported 14,384 positive cases on Thursday, down from the 14,647 reported Wednesday. The death toll rose by 86.

Hospitalizations went down Thursday as the state reported 3,144 hospitalizations, with 1,503 of these hospitalizations occurring in those who are fully vaccinated.

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 currently sits at 20.43 percent. Including higher education, the rate currently sits at 15.03 percent.

Massachusetts reported 31,190 new vaccinations—including boosters—from Wednesday to Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 13,377207 doses. Thursday’s weekly vaccination update reported that 5,218,046 Mass. residents—approximately 75 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. 

College officials updated existing COVID-19 guidelines last week and confirmed Jan. 18 as the date to return to in-person instruction. The Dining Center will continue to offer a grab-and-go option through Jan. 24.

Students will also be expected to test twice a week for the foreseeable future and have been asked to refrain from gathering indoors and in large groups through Jan. 24.

To comply with the updated testing protocol, Tufts Medical Center will be open to all Emerson community members Saturday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., college officials announced in an email last week.

The testing center will be closed every Sunday in January.

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.