• Doug Most

    Assistant VP, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

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There are 75 comments on 7 Key Questions and Answers about BU’s Coronavirus Testing Plans

  1. Very informative – thank you.

    But PLEASE stop using singular nouns w plural pronouns – this piece is riddled w that grating grammatical error. (“Any member (singular) . . . Will have to send their (plural) self assessment . . . .” The remedy is simple: just pluralize all your nouns and then you can say “they” all you want, avoiding he/she awkwardness).

  2. How does Governor Baker’s order for people entering Massachusetts to quarantine for 14 days affect getting to campus and the move in process? BU has been totally silent about this. Does the test we are going to take when we first get to campus allow us to avoid the quarantine the governor is enforcing? And then what are parents supposed to do if they aren’t also getting tested by BU but need to stay the night?

    1. I’m a grad student at BU. Yesterday, I received an email from the Dean of Students outlining the expectations for returning students and faculty to self-quarantine based on state guidelines. However, it gave no indication how these policies would be realistically enforced other than a “trust” system.

      1. Was not sure how this is supposed to work for Grad students. I would only be going on campus once a week. I have to get tested once per week to go on campus once per week!? That is insane. Mine as well just stay home. Unless they are going to provide testing every time I enter Questrom or come to my apartment. I have a full time job and no time to be running all over BU’s massive campus just to get tested for one class a week.

    2. Sara, there is a Parent Pulse Zoom meeting tonight at 8pm EST which I’m sure will answer these questions. They have been very forthright in these meetings. I’ve studied this a lot, since we are coming from TN. You can stay in MA without quarantining if you can get a negative result within 72 hours of entering. Stay well!

    3. I just found this question! I have been scanning the BU website all day trying to find the answers without luck! We are coming from Michigan and I had planned to stay a week. Now I am unsure if I can help my daughter move in, see her while she/we are quarantining, whether we should arrive earlier then planned so she can start classes in person, etc, etc.

      I see someone mentioned a parent zoom meeting that I did not know about. I am wondering whether that information will be shared?

    4. Sara. I have the exact questions that you posed on 7/28. As a parent of an out-of-state transfer student, we are wanting to know when she/we should be tested and where. We also plan to stay in the area for several days after arriving. Thanks for sharing if you know anything more.

  3. Bringing students back to campus is an incredibly stupid idea. It took a total of one weekend for Major League Baseball to have a major virus outbreak. As we’ve seen across this country as soon as a large number of people come together the virus spreads. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, the virus being what it is and human nature being what it is, the results of mass gatherings of people results in the virus spreading. That is a fact. To believe otherwise is folly.

    Phase three trials of several successful vaccines are starting just this week. Millions of doses will be available soon, possibly by the end of this year and almost certainly at the beginning of next semester.

    What would we lose if we did online teaching for one more semester? Not much. What could we lose by coming back to campus too soon, people’s lives, and the very real probability that we all come back, many get sick and we all have to go back home and end up studying from home anyway.

    Logic tells us that this is a very bad idea. We can see the finish line straight ahead, vaccines will be available soon and putting thousands of people together is a known recipe for disaster. Let’s do the right thing and work from home for a couple of months and let science do it’s thing. It’s the right thing to do. The smart thing to do.

    The reason why you’re nervous about coming back to campus is because deep down inside you know that this is a very bad idea.

    1. Thank You union brother, Steve!

      Gut feelings are very important and should be listened to and respected.

      Be Safe Local 2324 Sisters and Brothers !

    2. I also thank you Steve for your wise and well reasoned comment. I would add that professional baseball probably has much greater financial resources and enormous revenue at stake and their employees, the baseball players, are young, highly conditioned athletes whose workplace is quite spread out (9+ players) and is outdoors and they still couldn’t control the spread of the virus to that population in the first week of their return to the game. One team alone had some 11 employees with positive test results for the virus. Compare that workplace with the density and intimacy of a college campus. I agree wholeheartedly, lets put everyone’s heath and welfare first and return to remote learning for the fall semester.

  4. If a faculty or staff member is in a category 1 or 2, and only coming in on specific days (say Tuesday and Thursday), can they dictate what day they take the test? The article says we can choose the time, availability depending, but does not say the date.

    1. The story states that the University will be paying for all of the testing for faculty, staff and students. No individual will have to pay.

  5. I am a faculty member who will be in close contact with students this semester, and the fact that students will be tested twice weekly does reduce some of my anxiety about in-person teaching. But I have several questions:

    1) Has BU already acquired all of the reagents and swabs that will be needed for testing this semester? By my rough (and I think conservative) estimates (e.g., assuming only half of faculty and staff will be on campus), BU will have to conduct (at a minimum) ~500,000 tests over the course of the semester. Are they really prepared to do thousands of tests a day when many testing sites are having trouble getting reagents?

    2) While I understand that students and employees will not pay for the tests, how much will this testing process cost the university? It must be in the millions to tens of millions of dollars. Is this really where we want to be spending our money? How many people have lost their jobs to cover the cost of testing?

    3) Is it ethical to conduct ~500,000 tests (or likely more) at BU when so many people in our country struggle to get tested in COVID hotspots? Is it really worth going through all of this for students to have a mediocre on-campus experience? Let’s be real: students will be learning and eating 6 feet apart from other students. They can’t work together in small groups in class. Much of their learning will occur on Zoom in their dorm rooms. Most clubs, sports, and groups will not be able to meet in person or will be severely limited by social distancing. Is it really worth it?

    1. In regards to the first question, the new BU Clinical Testing Laboratory has the capacity to process over 5,000 tests per day for the BU community and has successfully worked with our own sourcing and procurement to secure the supplies for collection and testing.

      1. The article notes that BU has 35,000 students. If they are to be tested twice per week, that’s 70,000 tests/week, or 10,000 tests/day. That’s twice the 5,000 tests/day capacity quoted. Presumably, there is another lab that is also doing testing?

    2. The same concern here.
      Is there enough testing capability to ensure the need for the BU campus, and also the turn around time? There should be an estimated number to make sure this plan could work. Has the system been carefully evaluated before bringing everyone back to campus?
      What if there is no available testing spot for student who already comes back to campus?
      What if the result turn around time is far over 24 hours? The average time in MA is > 4 days.
      What if the testing center is down for days due to a lack of supply or failure PCR machine?

    3. Excellent points raised. I completely agree with your comment as well as the point above about Major League Baseball with much more resources and fewer people together experiencing outbreaks despite their best efforts. Also, the commenter above who noted a vaccine is on the horizon. I am very worried about the “human cost” of this experiment.

    4. How about taking a reduction in salary for faculty and staff to offset the university’s costs? How about lowering the tuition in proportion to the percentage of on-line classes students are taking? It’s not BU’s responsibility to provide testing, or money for testing, to local/state/federal agencies. Are faculty and staff making comments on this post prepared to back up their belief that students should not be on campus, or not in classrooms, by taking reductions in pay? You are asking for the students to give up a significant aspect of their college experience, yet pay the same extremely high costs to attend BU, what sacrifices are you willing to make? BU’s endowment is well over $2 billion, it can very well afford the costs of constant testing and monitoring and is showing a way for other institutions to be pro-active in enabling students to continue their education during the pandemic.

      1. BU has already frozen pay, laid off workers, and eliminated contribution to retirement, so we are making sacrifices. I’m not sure you should be aiming further cost-cutting measures at people like us though; back in 2016 (so, ignoring years of raises) President Brown made more than $1.6mil in salary and benefits, which is over 33 times what I make NOW, in 2020, as a staff member. Just as an example of where the big money is. If there were active cuts to my pay, I’d probably need to find a different job to afford living here, if my job even survived.

        While I appreciate your concerns about the student experience and the cost of attending BU, financials aside I’d say that the people not wanting students back on campus are valuing their LIVES over a semester or so of the on-campus student experience, and I can’t blame them.

  6. My son, who is an undergraduate in the dorms, has one roommate returning from Florida and one returning from California. Based on my reading of this information, they will be living in the dorms with my son for 24 hours before they get the test results. They share a bathroom and so cannot isolate themselves, and risk then passing on the virus to my son and the fourth roommate. Am I understanding this correctly?

    1. I am a grad student living in BU grad Housing. All tenants of grad housing building, about 150 tenants, just learned that BU Real Estate has indicated that vacant rooms may be used to quarantine students suspected COVID-19 and may mix with the healthy residents in the same building. BU Real Estate potentially without informing tenants living in the same building and let all tenants renew new leases. BU Real Estate has already planned for this and didn’t disclose this plan. Even now with more evidence of planning to move in suspected COVID-19 students such as moving in some medical equipment, BU Real Estate still hasn’t replied to our emails from early June. We are really concerned about our life if we live with suspected COVID-19 patients and facing a huge risk of getting infected and spreading virus since most of us are TA, lecturers and lab assistants.

      1. Daniel Kleinman, associate provost for graduate affiars and Michael DiFabio, senior associate vice president for Real Estate, sent out an email to a ll BU Real Estate Graduate Student Tenants today in which they wrote: “No undergraduate students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be relocated to housing in graduate student apartment buildings.” They went on to write that: “One key tool in the fight against COVID-19 is contact tracing and quarantining of close contacts. At BU, we have set up a contact tracing team that will be working to identify close contacts to positive test cases. When a close contact is identified, they will be tested as soon as possible; if a residential student tests positive, they will be moved into isolation on the Fenway Campus. If a residential student tests negative, we will take the precaution of moving them into quarantine – a private room with a private bathroom – for 14 days, during which time they will be regularly tested and monitored. Some of the identified quarantine units for students who have tested negative for COVID-19 are located in some buildings that also house graduate students. Your building is not among those that will serve as quarantine housing for any undergraduate students.”

    2. In addition, if a person gets contacted with Covid19 during travel, it might takes up to 14 days to show any symptoms & to be tested positive. Which means testing negative before the 14 day window ends does not mean the person does not carry the virus.

  7. What happens when a residential student tests positive? How is family notified and where do you isolate my kid? Who decides which hospital they go to if needed? Someone who tests positive can deteriorate quickly over 24-48 hours sometimes though even in the 4th or 5th day so, who is monitoring the student and how?

    And where is the student agreement Dean Elmore promised everyone would be required to sign?

    1. The health information from BU health systems will be made available only to those tested and to medical professionals in Student Health Services. Students can share information with their family or friends. In the event of an emergency, the emergency contact which the student provides would be notified.

      A student that tests positive and is in campus residential housing will be placed in assigned isolation spaces on campus. These accommodations will be located on the Charles River and Fenway Campuses. Student Health Services personnel will remotely monitor the progress of the student and determine when the quarantine or isolation period has concluded and the student may return to their academic year room assignment.

      In the event that hospitalization is needed, BU has direct access to Boston Medical Center, our University teaching hospital.

      1. No choice as to which hospital? Not okay.
        No form to contact parents if testing positive and quarantined even if parent and students agree and sign? Not okay.

        1. Alessandra, if your “kid” is Over 18, they are an adult. They alone decide who knows their medical history and what hospital to go to. BU is not allowed to tell you anything (FERPA, HIPAA, etc). Yes, while BU prefers BMC, you child can decide (by state law) to go to any hospital. So why don’t you helicopter somewhere else?

      2. Brian K, I hope you mean the health information from BU Health Systems will be reported/shared with local public health and state public health officials…. as required by law. COVID impacts more then the BU community and a unified front driven by public health officials (not university politics) is vital. Please follow the law and correct your statements.

  8. Will students returning to campus this week such as medical graduate students also be tested “immediately upon return back to campus?” There have been no notifications or protocols on how this will be done and move-in to the Medical Student Residence (BU owned dorm on the Medical Campus) begins in two days… Or are such students excluded from the testing that BU mentioned was “immediate?” The students all live in suites with another student who’s likely from another state/country and share a kitchen/bathroom.

    1. All BUMC graduate students who are back on campus have been prompted to get testing and are required to complete their first test by the end of this week. Testing for BUMC students began last week as part of the BUMC pilot.

      1. Yes I am a part of the pilot testing program and I am very skeptical of the tests. We are not instructed to swab deep in the nose, rather only the anterior nares area. Also, first week’s results are in and they reported 0 positive cases out of hundreds of tests administered. I find that highly unlikely, and suspect!

  9. The article states that students in category 1 will have to be tested every 3 days. Is this testing for a 14 days period or for the entire semester?

  10. Is the plan to test everyone indefinitely or until they test positive? What happens when a student tests positive at some point, do they continue with mandatory testing or will they be exempt at that point? What if they had covid before returning to campus, will those students /staff still have to be tested every 3 days?

    1. At this time the plan is to continue testing regularly throughout the entire semester. If at some point the scientific community comes to a consensus that contracting COVID-19 provides immunity from the disease, that policy might change for those who have already been infected.

  11. Why would the University test Cat 3 staff only once at the beginning of the semester if it’s indicated that they will be on campus a few times a week? How is that effective or responsible? Am I missing something?

    1. Testing everyone at the beginning of the semester allows the University to establish baseline data. Category 3 staff have been designated as such because of their low or minimal interactions with students. However, they will also be required to answer the daily symptom screen questionnaire.

  12. My child was assigned to Hojo for dorm, but just got a notification that now all of Hojo is going to be used for quarantine and therefore all residents there are being reassigned elsewhere on campus. We won’t hear where until after the deadline for deposit being refundable. Just when we had gotten comfortable with the idea of going to campus, we now have severe second thoughts, not just about coming to campus but about BU’s priorities. Clearly the U is operating under the assumption that students WILL be testing positive, but they have not responded to repeated requests for information regarding how/who from student health services will be monitoring kids who may face serious complications. There is absolutely NO acknowledgement of the latest studies showing lasting cardiac damage etc. from the virus, even in asymptomatic or mild cases. Are they looking at this whole semester as a giant experiment? Will they be publishing studies about how the virus spread and how many kids were hospitalized?

    They’re trying to micromanage the unmanageable at considerable expense, instead of doing the right thing for students and employees, and keeping campus closed until next semester. It’s really disappointing. Obviously, the students want to be on campus, but the University should be the adult in the room. All the testing in the world, even if they have enough swab, reagents, and personnel, won’t stop the virus from killing people.

  13. Viral shedding is highly variable and in one new small study of mild cases lasted anywhere from 8 to 47 days with a median of 20 days. Does BU’s test differentiate between contagious virus and residual non-contagious viral DNA? If a student is dx as positive and is still shedding virus after 14 days, what happens? What about if they’re in isolation and not recovered yet when Thanksgiving break happens? What happened to a decision about ending the campus semester at Thanksgiving?

    1. Only Student Health Services/Occupational Health and the individual tested will get notified of results. Results are also communicated with the state, as required. The lab system does not contain any personal health information, so the lab will not know individuals’ results. Test results from the lab system are matched, based on the test sample barcode, to the student/employee record in the respective Electronic Medical System where Student Health Services/Occupational Health review.

  14. I’m still unclear on how the contact tracing is going to work. I was under the impression that we would have an app on which we would complete a survey for symptoms and on which we would be called for testing at a frequency dependent on our category, and if we were overdue for testing or had symptoms, we would not be allowed into class. What happens according to the plan above if a student is scheduled for testing and doesn’t go?Maybe the student overslept, or was doing homework, or just decided not to go. Absolutely nothing happens. The student has no reason to go get tested. What we should do is that if students have symptoms or are overdue for a test, they aren’t allowed to enter classes, dining halls, FitRec, and other buildings. Maybe the required app would turn red if you had symptoms or if you didn’t complete a required test, and you had to display that it was green before entering class. BU needs to enforce their policy, otherwise no one will go to testing because it’s an inconvenience and they have better things to do.

    1. I am also wondering what would happen if a student simply chose not to get tested. It would be absolutely shameful on the part of said student, but in a student body of 35,000 it seems bound to happen.

      However, I would fight against the notion that nobody will get tested simply because “it’s an inconvenience” if there are no punishments to not being tested. I would hope that students will take the very basic responsibility of getting tested just like wearing a mask is a basic responsibility. It of course remains to be seen what the available times will be for testing, but assuming it is available throughout the entire day and it as quick as they say it really seems like it should not really be an inconvenience. The centers also seem to be spread out throughout campus enough that it is totally reasonable to schedule it so that you can do it on the way to work/class in the morning or on the way back home at the end of the day.

      The best we can without that information is make sure we do it ourselves, and also hold those close to us accountable. If I became aware that any of my friends were simply skipping out on testing because they “slept in”, I would pressure them to go as soon as they possibly can and also probably stop spending any time with them until they do and let them know. I hope you and others would also do the same.

  15. “Those in category 3 will be tested only at the beginning of the semester.”

    Does this mean they CAN be tested only once (but can test further if desired), or MUST be tested only once (with no option for further tests)?

    I’m in category 3 and want to know if I can get tested periodically, if I’d like, even though it wouldn’t be required like the other categories.

    1. All employees in category 3 will only be tested once, when they first come to campus. However, they will also be required to answer the daily symptom screen questionnaire. If symptoms are reported and Occupational Health deems testing is warranted, employees will be required to get tested before getting cleared to work.

      1. Thanks for the answer. Just to be clear, you’re saying that unless I am *required* to get additional testing for whatever reason, I won’t be allowed to get further tests after the first one, even if I’d like to?

  16. How accurate is our version of the test? What is the false positive & false negative rate? And do we know how much greater the false negative rate Is with anterior nares testing than with conventional testing?

      1. I would point out that that story also cites no numbers. On the other hand, similar tests have been reported in the literature to have a false negative rate around 38% on the first day of symptoms *, raising questions about how much asymptomatic transmission could be prevented by this test, especially if we are not testing individuals every day. Have we modeled this? What assumptions are we making?

        * https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7240870/

  17. What are the requirements for testing for graduate students who are only part-time, living off campus, but coming in-person for class 1-2 times per week?

    1. Graduate students living off-campus who attend classes at least weekly will be expected to get tested once per week. Several groups are in the process of identifying part-time graduate students who are not on campus at least weekly and are assessing what the right testing cadence will be for those students. Students who are enrolled in classes with an associated discussion and/or lab section will remain in Risk Category 1 or 2 and be required to get tested weekly.

    1. Thank you for reaching out to us, TB. The University is developing a dashboard to publicly share de-identified community testing information. More information will be shared about this soon.

      David Lazar, Office of the Provost

  18. This piece does not address the possibility of a false positive. If a student tests positive, will they be tested again to make sure it was not a false positive, rather than being isolated for no reason?

    1. It’s a very good question, Lola. The answer is yes, a student who tests positive will receive a second test before moving forward with quarantine.

      David Lazar, Office of the Provost

  19. What about all BU Housing air filtration systems. Some dorms and the brownstones do not have air or air filtration. How are they implementing these recommendations? All public schools are having to add air filtration.

    1. Thank you for your question Jane. If there is no mechanical HVAC equipment, the university will follow CDC and state guidance to achieve increased ventilation by opening windows. Fans may be used to increase the amount of outdoor air. If a fan is needed, contact Res Life at resed@bu.edu to request a fan. The fan should draw air into the space, not directing indoor air out the window. The combination of open windows, significant reduction of occupants, and use of a fan help to meet CDC guidance. Always practice other mitigation measures when outside of your residence; practice physical distancing, wear a face covering, and wash hands frequently. While in your residence, wash hands regularly and avoid inviting guests to your residence.

  20. Is BU not testing students to make sure they are COVID free before allowing them to move onto campus?? I have a kid that will be a freshman at Tulane and before she was allowed to move into her dorm she has to be tested

    1. Thanks for reaching out to us, Ivy. Universities across the country are adopting different safety protocols for welcoming students back to campus, based on guidance from state, local, and University health officials. At BU, students who are living on campus will be required to test on the day they return to campus, and will then have to quarantine until they have received a negative test result.

      1. Hi David, just to confirm, my son is an undergraduate Freshman student coming to reside at BU from the end of August. He’s flying in from Australia. Are you able to confirm the quarantine/isolation requirements he will have to follow on arrival. My understanding is he will need to produce a negative test result taken within 72 hours of arrival in line with Massachusetts guidelines, then a further test on arrival at BU campus. Am I right in assuming he will need a further two negative test results before he completes his quarantine (so three tests on campus in total) and if so, what is the timeframe for these additional tests, in essence, how long is this quarantine period?

  21. Thank you for your question Jane. If there is no mechanical HVAC equipment, the university will follow CDC and state guidance to achieve increased ventilation by opening windows. Fans may be used to increase the amount of outdoor air. If a fan is needed, contact Res Life at resed@bu.edu to request a fan. The fan should draw air into the space, not directing indoor air out the window. The combination of open windows, significant reduction of occupants, and use of a fan help to meet CDC guidance. Always practice other mitigation measures when outside of your residence; practice physical distancing, wear a face covering, and wash hands frequently. While in your residence, wash hands regularly and avoid inviting guests to your residence.

  22. Hi! I’m an incoming grad student from a low risk state (Connecticut), I am a little confused – I have gotten different answers from people I spoke with so hoping to find the answer here. To my understanding, graduate students need to have two negative test results before coming to class in-person. Those two tests need to be at least one week apart from each other (or is at most one week?). Do those tests need to be completed specifically at one of BU’s testing sites? Or can one or both of those tests be done at a third-party or independent testing site? I am asking because I am arriving to Boston September 1st.

  23. What does “weekly” mean?
    – once per calendar week – could be 1 to 13 days between two tests.
    – every 7 days – how precise is 7 days? Are we allowed to return in 6 days? If we wait 8 days, are we non-compliant?

  24. I got tested at 808 Comm Ave (one of BU clinic) at 12.35pm. Today, I called 3 times because I have not seen my test results when it has passed 24hrs. I called SHS and they told me to all back in 30′. In total, I called 3 times and still they said they dont have my results. I told them the web says it will be out in 24hrs and I am leaving MA tomorrow, before quarantining 14 days after arrival (I can leave MA before 14 days of quarantine if I get tested negative).

    The only solution they provided me is to cancel my flight and wait. This is very inconsistent of BU. How if me or someone else actually tested positive and have not heard the results within 24hrs. There is such a high risk of unintentional infection. Please BU, your statement is very lacking and dishonest. you need to fix this

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