• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 60 comments on FAQ: Quarantine vs Isolation and BU’s Safety Plans for Reopening Campus

  1. Which option should I choose on the Massachusetts Online Travel Form based on BU’s protocol (will take the test or will satisfy 14-day quarantine)?

    1. For the MA travel requirement, as long as you schedule your test upon arrival in MA, you can choose “I plan to get a test at my cost and will remain in quarantine until I receive a negative result”.

  2. Excellent explanation of process answering so many parent questions. Just a few concerns left:

    1. We need a hotline or an app for students to report non-compliance anonymously as this can save lives and keep BU open by preventing community spread.

    2. Where is the addendum allowing students to list contacts/parents they wish notified if they test positive for COVID-19 and their subsequent treatment and status? With student consent to list or not list a person to inform, this should adhere to all HIPAA and confidentiality laws. We have asked for this for weeks now and have not heard back. Yes, students can keep family informed but may also wish to have BU formally update parents or emergency contact while quarantined or isolated especially as this pandemic is new and evolving daily. A student’s health can deteriorate quickly and many parents wish to be kept informed formally by medical staff with student consent, of course. Parents were informed the MPOA is not sufficient.

    3. Where is the student code of conduct specific to this pandemic and COVUD-19 which lists expected behaviors and specific consequences including any warning system? Students should be handed this in advance to review and understand before signing. Simply saying student will lose residency is not sufficient.

    4, If roommates arrive at different times to begin fall semester, how does the quarantine and isolation work for the 1st student arriving who already has been quarantining?

    5, What is the positivity rate goal for BU campus?

    6, What will the positivity rate have to be to close campus?

    7, Where will the public be able to see daily numbers of cases of COVID19 and hospitalizations as well as positivity rate?

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your questions, they are ones many of us have and would appreciate answers. We are especially interested in #4, if one student is arriving several days before their roommate (in the hopes of starting classes on time) will this change the 8 day period?

  3. You must go into close contact quarantine “If you have been contacted by a contact tracer because you have been within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more who has tested positive, you must close contact quarantine for 14 days in either a special quarantine room or your own off-campus housing.”

    Is anyone exempt from the contact quarantine? It sounds as though anyone in room for more than 15 min with a student who test positive would need to follow these same rules. Staff, faculty and students would be affected right? Am I missing something? It seems like a lot of people will have to go into quarantine if a single student test positive.

    1. They are saying that people only have to quarantine if they were within six feet of someone who tested positive. The idea is that in classes and in other rooms no one should be going closer than six feet of someone, except maybe roommates. Thus, classmates would not be notified or put in quarantine. I don’t think this makes sense, since the virus can transmit further than six feet especially when people are talking loudly (even if wearing masks). However, BU is not planning to notify classmates. In fact, I think that the individual who tested positive is responsible for listing close contacts, not BU, which means that a lot of people who were actually close contacts may not be quarantined (even though, as you say, they should be).

  4. I understand that some of these draconian requirements are mandated by the state, but they also present a strong disincentive to cooperate with the school or contact tracers:
    who wants to force themselves or their friends into a mandatory 14-day quarantine based on so little evidence of infection?

    Safety measures need to be reasonable and directed toward supporting compliance, or else they endanger all of us!

    1. if you’re watching the latest news and your response to BU’s measures is “draconian” I don’t how to express how ridiculous, careless and outright crude you sound.

      how dare you? People are dying and those who survive are suffering permanent damage, not just in their lungs but in many other organ systems. look up medical journals if you want. this is the least BU and the state could do.

      this disease is dangerous, NOT these bare minimum safety measures!! it is better in the future that we look back saying we did too much than to look back and say we did too little.

  5. Why such a frequency of negative testing? Is this to establish accuracy of testing and determine false negative rates? It seems that most universities are testing weekly? (Even for category 1 athletes.) For that matter a negative test within 72 hours of arrival has no bearing on subsequent testing on campus. So what is the purpose of being tested prior to arrival? Finally, there are reports that states are changing how testing is reported. Surges previously noted have not been accurate. Are states deemed at higher risk by Mass, being updated?

    1. BU is conducting such frequent testing with the hopes of identifying virus early and in the event of a positive result, instructing that individual to isolate, thereby decreasing potential for spread in our community. The test prior to arrival is not a BU requirement, but a MA travel quarantine requirement. It does, however, aim to identify individuals who may have the virus, before bringing it to MA.

  6. How will isolation & quarantine work for those who live off-campus? If they cannot leave their residence, how will those individuals get food and get continued COVID testing (graduates and undergraduates alike)?

    1. Off-campus students who are isolating due to testing positive, or quarantining due to being identified as a close contact of a positive individual, will need to follow MA’s requirements for isolation and quarantine https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-prevention-and-treatment#stay-at-home-. Students living off-campus will need to arrange their own food. There are grocery delivery services in the area.

      Off-campus students will not get tested while they are in quarantine or isolation. Someone from the Healthway group will check-in with students in isolation and quarantine daily.

  7. What about graduate students who are on the student health plan and who are in Boston but online only and want or need to get COVID testing? Can they get tested by SHS or on campus testing?

    1. Only students who are engaging in our campus based living and/or learning are currently eligible to be tested. All testing is covered by BU and not by individual insurances. Individuals will need to check with their own insurance or state/city to see if asymptomatic testing is available.

      1. To be clear – are students living off campus (like my Senior Daughter) not required to be tested and not covered for it? If she is attending live classes but living off-campus – what is the guideline?

  8. Most individuals who test positive do so after 5-7 days. Not many test at 14. When talking about a mandatory 14 day quarantine, it sounds like anyone who comes in contact with someone for 15 mins who tests positive has to go into quarantine. Given the reality of our campus, that means that a student can be in quarantine the majority of the semester. Why not just have the student test after 5/7 days and use testing/symptoms as a measure for when to leave quarantine, which is what BMC, MGH, BWH, BIDMC are doing

    1. A 14-day quarantine is in line with current CDC and MA Dept. of Public Health guidelines and requirements. Should those guidelines or requirements change, we will re-evaluate our quarantine protocols.

  9. COVID PCR tests can come positive for other corona viruses like influenza. What happens if the student has the flu rather than COVID but is still placed in whatre time ?

    1. I mean, quarantining does help to curb the spreading of influenza…

      Also the RT-PCR test is generally pretty sensitive to the unique components of the virus. Like, 80-90% is the accuracy rate for the BU-made test, as opposed to around 80% for the commercial PCR tests used elsewhere.

      Also usually one positive result is not enough to deem if someone has covid. They usually re-test again within 24-48 hours to confirm the positive test.

      Source: I’m a biomedical engineering senior at BU and studied these RT-PCR technologies at length

  10. The state guidelines for the 14 day quarantine says “food must be delivered”. BUs guidelines do not address this. The BU guidelines say students may leave for food under the “BU advised stay in place”, but how will students get food during the MA required 14 day quarantine?

    1. If coming from a higher-risk state, students will only need to quarantine until they receive their first negative test to comply with the MA travel quarantine requirement and will not be required to quarantine for 14 days. For residential students, boxed food will be available at check in during move in.

      During the 14-day close contact quarantine, food will be delivered to residential students who are moved to an on-campus quarantine unit.

      Off campus students will be responsible for arranging their own food during quarantine periods.

  11. Can BU clarify the contract tracing protocol for instructors and students who share a classroom? From what I have heard, instructors will not be informed if one of their students tests positive because we won’t be closer than 6 feet in the classroom. However, I will be in a classroom with students for up to 2 hours at a time. Other instructors teach classes or labs that might last 3 or 4 hours. As we learn more, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virus is airborne and doesn’t magically disappear once it travels 6 feet. Yes, increased distance and wearing masks helps lower the risk, but the longer people share an enclosed space, the greater the risk of spread.

    The safer option is to inform all students and instructors that they have been exposed if a student (or instructor) in a class tests positive. Although the risk may be low from this type of exposure if everyone is masked and distanced, when there are hundreds of classes occurring daily there will almost certainly be some cases of spreading in the classroom, which could potentially lead to an outbreak if contact tracing is incomplete. I worry that BU is not adopting this safer policy because it would inevitably result in many students being quarantined at once, and it would result in many classes moving to all remote as instructors are also forced to quarantine.

    Parents and students, if this concerns you, I urge you to reach out to BU and let your concerns known. Faculty, staff, and graduate teaching fellows have been raising these types of concerns all summer, but it is clear that our voices are not enough and that our concerns are being ignored. If I am mistaken in my understanding of the contact tracing policy I ask that BU clarify it to relieve at least a bit of the anxiety that faculty and staff are experiencing.

    1. I would like to second this. I am aware of a number of voice and movement classes that are going to be in person, in which six feet is not nearly enough of a safe distance. Instructors, faculty, and staff need to be aware of potential risk if someone they interact with tests positive.

      Additionally, as a staff member, we have received absolutely no information about how faculty and staff are supposed to sign up for testing. When will we have that information? Folks may be having interactions with students as early as this weekend as they move back to campus. It feels morally bankrupt to not have this plan solidified at this point in time.

    2. I emphatically agree, R.S.

      It strikes me as bizarre that BU could know that I’ve spent 3 hours in a confined space with someone who has a confirmed case of a dangerous and likely airborne infectious disease, and simply choose not to share that information with me or with others who may have been exposed.

      The only possible reasoning that I can see for such a decision is to allow the university administration to paper over the disruption to campus life accompanying each positive case, at the expense of the safety of students, staff, and faculty.

    3. Since I posted my original comment I have heard from several BU sources that I was correct — instructors and classmates will not be informed of a possible classroom exposure unless the person who tests positive says they were closer than 6 feet for 15 minutes or more. In other words, it’s up to the person who tests positive to name potential “close contacts” in the classroom. So if a student in my class tests positive I will not automatically be told, and neither will the other students in my class. This is apparently a privacy issue. While I understand the need for privacy, I’m very anxious about this. I know that BU is working to upgrade ventilation, but there are still so many unknowns about exactly how easily this virus spreads. Have other institutions opened in the way BU is proposing and been able to contain the spread? I worry we’re all taking part in a giant experiment for very little potential gain and a whole lot to lose.

    4. Thank you for sharing this question, RS. It’s a concern we’ve heard from several members of the community and is something that University leadership is reviewing, as we speak, with the goal of providing greater detail and clarity.

    5. I am very interested in this but I don’t know who to contact to push for BU to inform teachers and students. Could someone give me advice about who I should call or write to to support this initiative?

  12. I would think that many students arriving from higher risk states will be flying in. The trip to campus from the airport could easily take longer than 15 minutes in a car and could take about an hour on public transit, yet there is no mention of the University doing anything to mitigate the risk to the greater Boston community that this poses. I would think that the university should arrange for airport shuttles for incoming students, some of whom are arriving in 3 days.

  13. Shouldn’t the quarantine days start from the day of exposure rather than saying “14 days no matte what”? Let’s say you got exposed Friday, Tuesday the other person is positive, Wednesday you’re in quarantine. That means it’s already been 5 days since exposure.

    1. Quarantine does indeed start from day of exposure. However, you cannot shorten the time in quarantine (from the time of that exposure) to shorter than 14 days.

      1. Yes but it’s a total for 14 days and they identified you on day 5, then shouldn’t that mean that you’ll be in a quarantine room for 9 days?

  14. Members of the residence life staff (and others who live on campus) have been “essential” since March. Most of us have been in the office daily, often in contact with students and others from the University.

    We have not been tested. We don’t know when we WILL be tested.

    Someone please get us in for regular testing, for everyone’s sake.

  15. Curious about parents who were planning on driving in their kids from far out of state. Is this even possible now if your home state is on the high risk list?

    1. Parents and students will be able to drive in from a higher-risk state. Each student is permitted one “helper” with move-in. According to the state’s travel order, “If a parent/guardian/family member is entering Massachusetts only to drop off the student and then immediately leaves the campus and the state, then they would meet the exemption [from quarantining]. If they are staying overnight, then they are subject to the requirements of the travel order” and must quarantine.

  16. Just wondering in the “close contact quarantine” Graduate Housing, has the ventilation system been improved? Also, will the quarantine students share the laundry room with the residents?

    It is just hard to find direct answers to these important questions. Thank you.

    1. For quarantine, all students are instructed to not leave their units. 1047CA has an in-suite washer/dryer but in all other locations, students would need to hand wash using their in-suite sinks. In addition to providing two individual-use laundry detergent packets for handwashing in their sinks, we provide Garment Valet details for all quarantine and isolation units. If a student wishes to use Garment Valet, they contact and pay the vendor directly, who has access to all buildings to pick-up and deliver to outside the student’s door; all completed within 48-72 hours. The initial bag, tag, and details are provided in the unit as part of the pre-stocked food/beverage and bedding/linen package.

      For isolation, students can access the building’s laundry rooms or utilize Garment Valet’s services. The exception is Pilgrim Hall as that laundry room is only accessible by leaving the building. Given this and that the building doesn’t have in-suite sinks, BU will cover costs for students to use Garment Valet.

      1. Thank you for this detailed reply. For quarantine, is there any way to actually enforce the quarantine students to not use the common laundry room?

        Additionally, has the ventilation system in all quarantine graduate housing been improved? I read that BU upgraded many of the ventilation systems but I just want to know about the quarantine graduate housing since the graduate students living there will be sharing the AC with quarantine students daily.

        Thank you again.

        1. In regards to HVAC, in 580 Comm Avenue, the common areas (hallways etc.) are provided with makeup air, some of this air is transferred into the apartments and exhausted out the bathroom exhausts. The individual apartments are heated and cooled by fan coil units that are naturally ventilated.

  17. How will the university deal with students who are not following proper guidelines (wearing masks properly, distancing, getting tested, etc.) during the year?

    1. Hi Caryne. Earlier today, the Office of the Dean of Students sent a message to all students laying out expectations for following health and safety guidelines (including an electronic agreement that all on-campus students must sign), as well as enforcement protocols for non-compliance. The policy and protocols can be found on the Dean of Students’ website: http://www.bu.edu/dos/policies/lifebook/covid-19-policies-for-students/.

  18. If an on campus student from Massachusetts it told to quarantine because of close contact, can that person return home for 14 days to complete the waiting period, then get tested to rejoin the residential community? This is no different than a person living off campus and permits the student to be cared for and relieves BU of the burden.

    1. Thanks for this question, Bruce. Students who test positive will be moved to on-campus isolation housing. Those who’d rather quarantine at home may do so, however, and return to campus, generally, 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms. Student Health Services would still provide support to this student by checking in daily.

    2. Students that live within driving distance may leave campus to either isolate or quarantine. We do however caution individuals to follow public health guidelines and take extra precautions in being in contact with that student. Healthway will still provide support to this student by checking in daily.

  19. In a four-person on-campus apartment (single bedrooms), if all roommates have been testing negative but one has learned they’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive (the other 3 didn’t have close contact with the sick person), do all 4 roommates have to go into isolation/quarantine or just the one who had the contact ?

    I understand the first degree contact going into isolation, but if you require the second degree contacts too (ie, the roommates once removed, etc.), a very large number of students will end up in isolation and this could potentially happen over and over again.

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. Contact tracing is only done for first degree contacts. So, in the situation you described, only the individual who was the close contact to the known positive would be required to quarantine.

  20. Where on the Healthway portal do we report our daily temperature and any symptoms? I have searched the Healthway portal and don’t see it anywhere. When does the daily self-screening begin?

  21. I live on Bay State Road with my elderly mother (70+) who is at high risk. Walking down Bay State Road we are seeing many cars in the community from higher risk Covid19 states. The parents are coming with other siblings in tow (whole families) and walking around the community. An influx of out-of-state license plates I am seeing include those from: Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida,Texas, Missouri, Virginia, and from lower risk states such as New Hampshire, New York, 2x New Jersey, Maine. I feel that you are inviting out of state families for this move and that this poses a great risk for our community. I understand the students coming back but had assumed that they would be quarantining and that parents would just be doing a drop off. Instead I am seeing families (parents+siblings)  walking around campus and not quarantining. I find this very concerning.

    I am seeing campus police on patrol but they are not addressing when families are doing more than just moving in the student but also hanging out on campus and in the community without quarantining. It is unrealistic to think that these families are not stopping by the grocery stores, sightseeing on the campus/Boston, and nearby restaurants.

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