Coronavirus: BU Friday 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:
Sweetie everyone’s already washing their hands five+ times a day, covering their face, not shaking hands + avoiding bars. Not only are we already here, you’re all Muslim. Salam brother.
Stat of the day:
Parents of Chinese students at BU donate PPE to Boston Medical Center
Xiaojie Yin’s family moved to Easton, Mass., several years ago, and her son, Yuan Liao (CAS’21), is majoring in math. In early March, Yin noticed a growing number of questions and concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States in two WeChat groups for BU parents in China. The language and cultural and technical barriers made it difficult for these parents to receive rapid and accurate information about what was happening here and how COVID-19 was impacting their children’s daily life. So on March 10 Yin began updating the group daily on the spread of COVID-19 in Boston. Some parents mailed packages to Yin, asking her to help deliver them to their students.
Yin, a member of the Sharon Chinese Association (SCA), learned the association was appealing for personal protective equipment (PPE) donations for Greater Boston area hospitals. She set up a WeChat group on March 24 to encourage BU parents to join in the effort. In just a few days, more than 100 parents joined, most of them living in China. They followed the guidelines given by SCA to purchase masks and other PPE supplies in their cities. To get supplies meeting the professional standard, many went to multiple stores, even factories, to buy N95 masks. Given the difficulty of shipping PPE supplies in bulk internationally, parents mailed small packages to SCA, whose staff gathered the supplies and reached out to healthcare workers at local hospitals to distribute them.
There are currently 155 members in Yin’s WeChat group for the project, which accepts only donated PPE supplies. With many packages still enroute to Boston, the estimated number of masks collected by the BU parents is at least 15,000. So far, 31 local hospitals have applied to SCA for PPE supplies. On Thursday, SCA delivered 2,300 desperately needed masks to Boston Medical Center (BMC).
The BU parents hope to gather and ship more supplies to BMC, and ask if any campus departments need PPE items. If you need PPE or want to donate to the effort, email Yin at email@example.com.
Anyone able to donate supplies such as gloves, masks, and ventilators to Boston Medical Center should use this online form to provide details on the donation and find contact information and how to deliver it.
Answering questions about NEIDL’s COVID-19 research
The Community Liaison Committee at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories held an online Zoom meeting Thursday with Ronald Corley, NEIDL director and a School of Medicine professor of microbiology, to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and the research being undertaken by his team. Corley said that several NEIDL investigators have submitted protocols to work with the coronavirus and are waiting for approvals from the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and that he appreciates the BPHC’s willingness to meet online and move protocols forward. Among several NEIDL investigators who have received approvals: Robert Davey, a MED professor of microbiology, will be screening drugs to use against infected cells to see which drugs can interfere with or block the virus; Anthony Griffiths, a MED associate professor of microbiology, has been asked by Boston Medical Center to test whether vaporized hydrogen peroxide can kill COVID-19 on masks.
The CLC was formed to promote public participation and transparency, facilitating information flow between NEIDL and the community, and is made up of 13 community members; 7 CLC members were able to ask Corley questions regarding COVID-19, including on collaborative efforts and NEIDL clinical trials. Corley noted that all research at NEIDL on COVID-19 are preclinical studies. NEIDL researchers are working collaboratively with other BU departments and the Greater Boston Consortium on Pathogen Readiness to understand how the coronavirus infects cells and leads to COVID-19.
Share your adventures in remote learning
We were stirred by this Twitter thread from a Brown University faculty member about her interactions with students during this period of distance learning resulting from COVID-19, from sad and scared students with health fears and money concerns to students going out of their way to help support one another. So we wonder, does anyone—faculty or students—have noteworthy moments to share? A prof who’s gone over and above to help you on Zoom? A student who has done well in online classes despite real-world challenges? Funny, sad, or dramatic, we’d like to hear it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston and Beyond News
Up to 172,000 COVID-19 cases predicted in Massachusetts
Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday released projections from the state’s COVID-19 advisory group estimating that between 47,000 and 172,000 Massachusetts residents will contract the virus before the pandemic runs its course. That’s 0.7 to 2.5 percent of the state’s population. The current fatality rate is 1.5 percent of cases. Currently there are 7,738 cases in the Bay State.
The state is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to expand their ICU capacity. Projections show that Massachusetts will need approximately 500 additional ICU beds in the coming weeks. The peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state is expected to come April 10 to 20.
In addition to the field hospital being assembled at the DCU Center in Worcester, Baker identified several other possible field hospital sites, including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) in the Seaport. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said later in the afternoon that the BCEC will offer 500 beds for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but do not require full hospitalization. The site could offer 500 more beds for members of the general population, if needed.
Governor closes state beach parking lots
To keep people from violating guidelines on social distancing, Baker has ordered parking lots closed at all beaches operated by the commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, beginning at noon Friday, April 3. He stopped short of closing the beaches, though, leaving them open for walkers, joggers, and dog owners. The thinking is that banning parking will keep large groups from congregating and prevent the beaches from getting too crowded and enabling people to stay six feet apart. Parking will be reduced at some state parks for the same reason. Some seasonal parks will open early to make more room for people. Facilities such as playgrounds and restrooms will remain closed, however.
Boston mayor announces measures to help tenants, small businesses
On Thursday, Walsh announced a new $3 million fund to help city residents falling behind on their rent. The fund, to be administered by the Mayor’s Office of Housing Stability, will be targeted for households that have lost income due to COVID-19, but do not qualify for federal relief or unemployment benefits. Residents can find more information here.
The mayor also announced the creation of the $2 million Small Business Relief Fund, established to assist Boston’s small businesses most directly impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic. This newly created fund, administered and managed by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, is designed to quickly and strategically disburse grants to local businesses through a streamlined process that does not require businesses to assume additional debt. The fund will begin accepting applications on Monday, April 6, 2020.
Eligible small businesses—for-profit entities, registered and operating in Boston, with fewer than 35 employees and less than $1,500,000 in annual revenue—will apply through a single application to be considered for one of three grants, based on the size of the business. Grants can be used to address rent, fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, lost sales, lost opportunities, and other working capital expenses.
US & Global News
Democrats postpone convention
The 2020 Democratic National Convention, to be held in Milwaukee, has been postponed to August because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally planned for mid-July, the convention will now be the week of August 17—one week before the Republican National Convention, being held in Charlotte, N.C. Many observers have been concerned about how the pandemic and measures taken to combat it might affect this year’s presidential election, and a number of state primaries have already been postponed.
Latest count of coronavirus cases
United States, 234,462; Massachusetts, 7,738.
Distraction of the day:
Mavis Staples has released a new song, “All in It Together,” written and recorded with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, available on Bandcamp for $1. All the song’s proceeds will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City—a Chicago organization ensuring seniors have access to the essentials needed to fight COVID-19.
Find BU Today’s latest coverage of 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.