Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: March 3 to 9
Positive cases decline, but strains of the variant first found in the UK on campus cause a new concern
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 March 3 and 9, 49 students and 11 faculty and staff members tested positive for coronavirus at Boston University. The Brink asked Judy Platt to provide an update on all things COVID-19 at BU: how the community is doing overall in terms of its health, what’s the latest news on vaccinations at BU, what are the latest stats revealed from BU’s new variant sequencing initiative, and more.
With Judy Platt
The Brink: Overall, looking at the number of new cases this week and from what you’ve learned through BU’s contact tracing and case investigation teams, how is BU doing? What’s going well, and where are the areas where it could do better?
Platt: Total positive cases are slightly decreased compared to last week. This is good news, but we need to continue to stay vigilant. We are continuing to have daily positive cases related to gatherings and mixing of households and this is a main area where we can improve.
Since our last report, how many additional positive samples have had enough virus material to be sequenced at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL)? What have the results of those sequencing efforts been—what strains, how many, any notable trends you’ve noticed?
Since our last report, BU’s NEIDL was able to sequence 92 positive samples. The B.1.1.7 variant of concern, first identified in the UK, continues to comprise a larger percentage of the positive samples being sequenced each week. This is not unexpected as this variant of concern is being widely reported across the United States. With this variant being linked to greater transmissibility, the importance of social distancing, masking, and compliance with testing continues to be critical in reducing spread of the virus.
We know that for the foreseeable future the state is no longer sending vaccines to universities, but folks who already received their first dose from BU will still be able to get their second dose through the University. How’s that process going? At what point do you expect BU will be totally done giving vaccines?
We will continue to update the community through our Back2BU website regarding our vaccination plans. BU has received enough vaccine to complete all of our second doses and will be having two additional second dose clinics, on March 11 and March 25. We will alert the community when we are able to receive additional vaccine.
Do you have recommendations for how people can best seek out vaccinations on their own? Is the change in vaccination distribution (no longer coming to universities directly) impacting BU’s plans to bring its full community back to campus?
On March 12, the state is rolling out a preregistration site that will allow individuals to input their information and be notified when a vaccine is available at a mass vaccination site. Currently, the state is encouraging only individuals who are eligible for vaccination to preregister.
When you think about BU’s COVID surveillance and mitigation efforts right now, what’s top of mind for you? What are you watching most closely or anticipating with the most interest?
With increasing percentages of the B.1.1.7 variant from the UK being detected weekly, we are most closely watching clusters and the percentages of individuals in quarantine to end up going on to test positive.
Have you learned anything interesting or new from conversations with other universities, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, or Boston Public Health Commission? Any regional trends or concerns we should be aware of?
Several universities have noted clusters related to certain affiliations. The more information that is shared with our Healthway team, the better we can help contain the spread of the virus on our campus.
Is there anything on your mind this week regarding COVID-19 activity at BU that we haven’t covered yet? If so, can you explain?
There is one thing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun providing additional information regarding public health protocols for fully vaccinated individuals. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health published state-specific guidance aligned with the CDC’s messaging. Currently, a relatively small proportion of the Boston University community has been vaccinated, but we will be reviewing our guidelines and anticipate providing our community with additional information shortly.
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.
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