Phase 2B vaccinations begin soon; asthma added to list of eligible comorbidities
Boston University publishes its COVID-19 testing data on a public-facing dashboard. Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research, and Judy Platt, director of BU Student Health Services, provide a weekly update on the overall health of the BU community.
Between February 10 and 16, 35 Boston University students and 8 staff members tested positive for coronavirus, a drop in BU cases that reflects the trend happening regionally and nationally.
“The cases are going down in the external community, which is really important,” Waters says. “We also have to hope that cases are coming down because people are being more careful.”
Waters and Judy Platt also say the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has added asthma to the list of comorbid conditions for vaccine consideration. They say that members of the BU community should look out for an email from BU Healthway, asking them to update their comorbidities survey, which will have the added option of self-identifying as having asthma. The survey must be returned by 5 pm on Friday, February 19.
Responding to the decreasing COVID cases at BU, Waters says the news about the spread of more infectious variants reaching Massachusetts and other states spurred a flurry of public health messages urging people to buckle down on wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing physical distancing. Those efforts appear to be paying off.
“We had a lot of concern over the Super Bowl weekend, that gatherings would lead to more cases, but so far we haven’t seen a new spike,” Waters says. With warmer weather potentially around the corner, she hopes physical distancing will be even easier to maintain as people can move their get-togethers from living rooms or kitchens to patios, parks, and backyards.
Platt adds that with all the renewed interest in N95 masks and knowing which type of masks work best, the most important feature to keep in mind when selecting a mask is how snugly it fits the face, covering the nose, mouth, and chin.
“If you’re wearing a snug-fit, triple-layer cloth mask, that offers better protection than a loose-fitting surgical mask,” she says. “You can double mask, tuck the ear loops, do whatever you can to close any gaps around the sides of the mask.”
Massachusetts has announced that the next eligible group for vaccination, 2B, will open up on Thursday. Waters says BU is preparing to invite members of the BU community who meet the criteria for the state’s 2B vaccine prioritization group (people aged 65 or older or people who have two or more comorbid conditions) to receive the first dose of a COVID vaccine as early as next week. BU currently has 300 doses in its freezers, left over from earlier vaccination groups. Those doses will now be offered to people in the 2B group, as well as people in earlier vaccination groups that have not yet responded to their appointment invitation sent via email.
Platt adds that everyone is encouraged to get a COVID vaccine as soon as they are eligible—and not to wait to get their vaccine from BU if they have the chance to get vaccinated earlier through their primary care provider or another vaccination site. Massachusetts is increasing the number of its public vaccination sites, like the one that is now open at Boston Medical Center, BU’s teaching hospital. People can visit Massachusetts Vax Finder to locate vaccination sites.
Gloria Waters has spearheaded teams of BU scientists in their development and deployment of a campus-wide COVID-19 testing program and mathematical modeling of community behavior. Judy Platt, chair of BU’s Medical Advisory Group, oversees clinical management and isolation of students and employees who test positive for coronavirus, and helps manage BU’s contact tracing efforts. They are co-chairs of BU’s Vaccine Preparedness Group, which is overseeing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines allocated to BU by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.