Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: April 21 to 27
BU Clinical Testing Lab passes milestone of one million COVID tests, and 7,000 BU community members are now fully vaccinated
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 April 21 and 27, 25 students and 13 faculty and staff tested positive for coronavirus at Boston University. The Brink asked Judy Platt and Gloria Waters to answer a few key questions on COVID-19 at BU.
With Judy Platt and Gloria Waters
The Brink: The BU Clinical Testing Lab surpassed one million COVID tests on Wednesday. What does this milestone mean to you?
Waters: This is an incredible accomplishment that has only come about because of the work of so many all across the University. It is hard to believe that at this time last year we were barely beginning to think about testing. To have built a lab, staffed it, and have created a system that is incredibly efficient is really a testament to the hard work and dedication of those involved. Having the testing lab, along with the incredible work done by the Healthway staff and the contact tracing team, has allowed students to be on campus, faculty to return to the classroom, and research labs to be open.
Let’s talk about what variant sequencing is revealing. Are there any updates on the presence of variants of concern at BU?
Platt: We have seen a handful of additional cases that have been identified as the P.1 variant [which originated in Brazil] and we still continue to have cases of the B.1.1.7 variant [that originated in the UK]. The good news is that our systems are working to keep spread of these variants minimized.
Are there any other COVID variants at BU?
Platt: We are sending all positive samples for sequencing so there are many different variants detected, but only a small number are considered variants of concern—so-named because they are believed to be associated with greater transmissibility, greater mortality, or both.
At this time, how many people at BU have been fully vaccinated?
Waters: Almost 7,000 BU community members have uploaded their information indicating that they are fully vaccinated. Given that vaccinations have just opened for the majority of our population, we are hopeful that the number will increase dramatically over the next month. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Boston Medical Center’s appointment finder is easy to use and has appointments available this week.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share this week, as you consider the overall COVID activity at BU?
Waters: It is great to see that things are opening up in Massachusetts and Boston. We are all ready for that. However, because vaccinations have only recently been opened up for all, there are many members of our community who have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated. It is important that we all still adhere to the indoor mask mandate and social distancing as appropriate. It is very encouraging that the number of cases is going down across the state and at BU. It makes us very hopeful that we are returning to a pre-COVID state and that the fall will be very different than this past year has been.
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.
Great-1 million tests on roughly 40,000 people…seems excessive.