Coronavirus: BU Monday Roundup
BU, Boston, state, national, and global updates
If you have a question or comment related to BU and its response to the COVID-19 crisis, on the subject of the move-out, remote learning, retrieving personal belongings, or anything else, please visit Boston University’s special COVID-19 website. Questions are being answered there by specific departments in a timely fashion. Thank you.
—Doug Most, executive editor, BU Today
Quote of the day:
We all need to practice #SocialDistancing. This is not a time for house parties, play dates, or visiting with friends. We need everyone to limit their contact with each other right now, to protect the health and safety of all Bostonians.— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) March 20, 2020
Stat of the day:
We spotted a familiar face in this WCVB-TV story about volunteers dropping off City of Boston coronavirus information pamphlets in 25 neighborhoods to help people who may not have internet access. Ken Ryan, BU’s director of city relations, and his wife, Meghan, were among the volunteers leaving the pamphlets at doors in South Boston—and to maintain social distance, they were just leaving them, not knocking. The pamphlets come in seven languages and include information on topics from the City Hall help line to social distancing and emergency meal sites.
Need some good news? Meet the Class of 2024
Even though it seems like things are standing still, they’re not. The next class of Terriers got the good news from BU Admissions on Saturday. Chosen from among 61,006 applicants, they come from all 50 states and several territories, as well as 102 countries around the world. And as usual, they’re an interesting bunch, including a three-time World Tap Dance champion, an archer who has qualified for this year’s Olympics, and one who started a program that has donated over 15,000 pairs of lab goggles to schools across the United States.
Since COVID-19 has closed campuses across the country, the University is creating a number of virtual events for high-school students considering joining the Class of 2024 and their parents. On Wednesday, BU Today will publish a story going into more detail on that as well as on the Class of 2024.
Campus closures: what faculty and staff need to know
On March 17, President Robert A. Brown announced that the University was extending remote teaching and learning through the end of spring semester and undergraduate residence halls were closing to help contain the fast-spreading coronavirus. While the intent is to have as limited a presence on campus as is feasible, all academic and administrative departments at the University need to remain fully functional to support remote education, research, and student services.
As most faculty and staff have transitioned to working remotely, significantly reducing the number of people on all three campuses during the day, the University will be securing campus buildings in a manner similar to intersession to ensure the safety of those who need to continue to work on campus. It will also be adjusting mail delivery services.
Starting Monday, March 23, 2020:
- All Charles River and Fenway nonresidential buildings will be locked. All Medical Campus buildings will be locked, except for the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine patient entrance at 635 Albany St., which will be open until 3 pm for emergency appointments.
- Faculty, staff, and students with key or card access to buildings and interior spaces will continue to have normal access.
- At the request of a dean or vice president, specific buildings and rooms may remain unlocked during the day. Written requests for special hours of operation should be emailed to Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations, at email@example.com.
- If staff members need keys, their department head should contact Facilities Management & Operations at 617-353-2105 for Charles River Campus and Fenway Campus buildings and 617-358-4144 for Medical Campus buildings.
- Undergraduate housing access is monitored and controlled through a swipe card system. Students and staff needing access should contact the Student Housing Office at 617-353-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On-campus dining information is available online here.
- Locksmiths will be available for emergencies and may be reached by calling Facilities Management & Operations at 617-353-2105 for Charles River Campus and Fenway Campus buildings and 617-358-4144 for Medical Campus buildings.
Starting on Tuesday, March 24, 2020:
- Boston University Mail Services will suspend regular departmental mail delivery. Mail will be delivered on Monday, March 23, 2020. Departments may request periodic mail delivery.
- Call Mail Services at 617-353-2156 with questions and to schedule mail delivery. Staff will make every effort to accommodate your needs.
- Departments may pick up their mail Monday through Friday between 11 am and 2 pm at University Mail Services, 120 Ashford St., Room 163.
- Individuals picking up mail must show a valid Boston University Identification Card and will be asked to follow social distancing practices.
Changes in research
Researchers on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus have already minimized laboratory activity as much as possible and developed a plan should the University be required to shut down operations further due to the ongoing coronavirus situation. On Saturday, Gloria Waters, vice president and associate provost for research, sent a memo to faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdocs asking for an inventory of ongoing research and for information about what activities would be critical to maintain if it is necessary to cease in-person work.
The University is asking all principal investigators (PIs) to use this form to let their department chairs know by Wednesday, March 25, what activity is still occurring on campus and which personnel are considered essential to the ongoing work.
Activities currently considered essential are:
- long-term experiments and activities that would generate significant data and financial loss if not completed
- human subjects research that holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices, or surgical procedures) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit
- work to maintain critical samples and animal populations
- activity that if discontinued would pose a safety hazard
- activity to maintain critical equipment in facilities and labs
- COVID-19–related activity that has a timeline for deployment that could address the current crisis
Invalid justifications of essential activities include: “It will take time to get the lab up and running again” and “experimental results are needed for a paper submission or another deadline.” And researchers should be prepared for these criteria to become more restrictive, depending upon developments, Waters wrote.
The University is asking PIs to indicate on the form what activities they believe are critical to maintaining the capabilities of their lab if in-person-in-the laboratory work is required to cease. In any case where the activity goes beyond simple equipment or sample maintenance, the request should include a justification of the essential activity, a social distancing plan, and a contingency plan. The information you provide will be used to notify your departmental administrator about who these individuals are.
Unless their presence is required for an essential role, trainees (including PhD students and postdoctoral researchers) should work remotely. But lab heads will not make any immediate changes to the support of their staff, students, and postdocs.
Each school will develop a process for review and approval of the list of critical activities. A first-level review will be performed by department chairs. In the event of an order to cease in-person-in-the-laboratory work, final approval of activities beyond those approved by the chair must be obtained from an associate dean or dean.
Departments, schools, the Office of Research, and Environmental Health & Safety will work together to determine how best to continue the indicated critical activities.
“One consequence of the scaled back in-person-in-the-laboratory research and remote work is that the campus will have far fewer people and we will need to make sure that spaces and valuables are secured,” Waters wrote. “BU Public Safety is mindful of this concern and will be taking appropriate measures.”
Boston and Beyond News
Three more fatalities bring state total to five
Officials said on Sunday that two men in their 70s and one in his 90s died from COVID-19 in Massachusetts over the weekend, bringing the state death tally to five. The first death was an 87-year-old Winthrop man whose passing was reported on Friday, and the death of a 50-year-old woman was reported on Saturday; both of them had preexisting conditions that predisposed them to severe problems from the disease.
Army Corps of Engineers will help add temporary medical facilities
Governor Charlie Baker said the state is coordinating with the Army Corps of Engineers on emergency infrastructure for treating and quarantining patients. He said empty college dorms and recently closed nursing homes are being considered as possible makeshift medical facilities in case of hospital overcrowding. The Corps will be evaluating possible sites for suitability as well as for electrical and plumbing capacity.
Boston police officer tests positive
A Boston police officer has tested positive for COVID-19, the first member of the Boston Police Department testing positive. Officials said the department learned of his case on Saturday, and that the officer will remain at home until medically cleared. It is not clear whether he contracted the virus on the job, but his workplace has been cleaned and disinfected, they said.
Island refuge? Think again
It’s natural in these circumstances to think that an island might provide a nice refuge from a pandemic. But officials on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket asked summer residents and other visitors to stay away out of concern for hospital capacity. The Vineyard and Nantucket each have one confirmed case of COVID-19, and Nantucket officials have ordered residents to stay at home until further notice, beginning at 5 pm Monday, March 23, except for essential errands like medical treatment or grocery shopping.
US & Global News
They’re. Just. Not. Thinking.
Just about everyone has seen the video of a Miami spring-breaker (and of course, aspiring Soundcloud rapper) who refused to stop partying for COVID-19, saying, “If I get corona, I get corona.” He’s easily dismissed as a future Darwin Award winner. But young people refusing to heed warnings about social distancing are a problem nationwide and likely are making things worse.
An extra three months for taxpayers
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced via tweet Friday that you don’t have to pay your federal taxes until July 15, instead of by the usual April 15 deadline. The move was one of several under consideration by the administration to help Americans cope with the financial fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. File now if you’ve got a refund coming, though.
Distraction of the day:
Brighten your day and meet one of the stalwarts of Boston’s music scene—virtually, of course. Bill Janovitz of the great band Buffalo Tom brought fans together on Saturday for a “virtual happy hour” concert broadcast online, which also raised more than $4,000 for “local independent music venues and promoters who are losing their shirts during this virus shut down.” You can watch the full set here—and also see Janovitz make his favorite martini. At the moment, he’s planning to do it all again this coming weekend.
Latest count of coronavirus cases
United States, 26,747; Massachusetts, 646.
Find FAQs about BU’s response to the pandemic here. The University’s hotline for faculty, staff, students, and visiting scholars to call for referral of their virus-related medical concerns is 617-358-4990.