BU Keeps Existing COVID Protocols for Fall, Adds Monkeypox Measures
Symptomatic COVID testing will be done at only one site, masks not required in classrooms
The University’s fall COVID-19 protocols will remain unchanged from summer’s, except that all testing for the coronavirus will be conducted at a single site. BU will also initiate procedures for students and employees who contract monkeypox, the virus declared a public health emergency by the US government last week.
Judy Platt, BU’s chief health officer and Student Health Services (SHS) director, announced both sets of protocols in an email to the University community August 10.
For COVID, there will be just one pickup/drop-off site as of August 15 for self-administered tests: the Health Services Annex in the rear of 925 Commonwealth Ave. Students, faculty, and staff with COVID symptoms, or who have been in close contact with an infected person, will still be able to be tested. Asymptomatic surveillance ended in May.
Medical Campus students and employees may also use the Health Services Annex. Alternatively, Boston Medical Center offers walk-in testing at its Influenza Like Illness (ILI) Clinic at the Crosstown Building, 801 Massachusetts Ave.
Masks will not be mandated in classrooms in the fall, but will be required for those using the BU Shuttle (the BUS) and in all health-care settings, including Student Health Services, the Occupational Health Center, and the Health Services Annex.
Platt’s memo outlines this fall’s other COVID protocols:
- All BU community members must be vaccinated and have received a single booster dose. Second booster shots are not required at this time. Students should make sure that they have submitted proof that they have had their initial vaccination series and a booster shot; for more information, check here. SHS will hold vaccination clinics for students who need their primary shots or non-COVID mandatory vaccines during fall immunization clinics. More details will be announced closer to the start of the fall semester.
- While masks are not required in classrooms, the University recommends that people, especially those at risk of serious infection, use high-quality masks in crowded locations or if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID.
- Students will not need a negative test upon arriving on campus or to move into residential dorms.
- On-campus students, regardless of their living situation, who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate in place at their assigned residence. (BU is no longer providing separate isolation housing on campus.) The University urges students, when possible, to isolate at their permanent residence, returning there by private car. Those who must remain on campus can get meals through GrubHub Campus Dining and Rhetty To Go.
- Neither SHS nor BU’s Occupational Health Center (OHC), which serves employees’ health needs, will monitor isolation periods or require reports of rapid antigen tests. Anyone who tests positive will receive guidance about how to isolate and for how long. Employees may put available COVID-19 paid absence or sick time toward COVID-related absences; students should work with professors and advisors on making up missed class time.
Despite vaccines and ebbing case severity, COVID remains a concern. More than 3,500 student and employee PCR tests from BU’s campuses have been performed this summer at the University’s testing laboratory. “SHS and OHC also receive calls from students and employees who are testing positive on at-home antigen tests,” Hannah Landsberg (Sargent’13, SPH’13), SHS associate director, told BU Today.
Students testing positive should inform close contacts that they have been exposed to COVID-19. Close contacts should get tested three to five days after exposure and monitor their symptoms; they’re required to follow Massachusetts Department of Public Health quarantine guidelines based on their vaccination and symptom status. Find more guidance on whether to quarantine here.
Employees testing positive for COVID-19 will be instructed to isolate and report as soon as possible to their managers that they are unable to come into work. The University no longer sends work restrictions for COVID-19-related absences.
Platt’s memo notes that the University is monitoring the monkeypox outbreak; Massachusetts has had more than 150 cases reported to date. Symptoms typically last two to four weeks and include a rash resembling pimples or blisters on the genitalia, anus, mouth, face, hands, feet, and other areas. Among other symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches or backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.
Monkeypox can be transmitted through close physical contact such as kissing and cuddling; direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs, or fluids; and by touching items that have touched an infectious rash or bodily fluids, such as clothing, sheets, and towels.
“Although gay, bisexual, and queer men and transgender and nonbinary people who have sex with men have recently been disproportionally affected, anyone can be infected with monkeypox regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” the memo says. “Current messaging about monkeypox being a ‘gay’ illness creates stigma, perpetuates misconceptions, harms those who are most vulnerable, and prevents reaching all who are at risk.”
The memo from Platt announces the following protocols regarding monkeypox:
- The University will require any infected students and employees to isolate in a private bedroom and bathroom and forego classes or work while infectious. On-campus students will be relocated to a private room and bathroom. The University has private rooms across campus that SHS uses for various medical conditions.
- Students with monkeypox symptoms, or who have been exposed to the disease, should call SHS (617-353-3575), which can help arrange testing and treatment and provide guidance on vaccination. Vaccination before or soon after exposure can protect against the illness. Employees with symptoms or exposure should contact their primary care doctor; those who don’t have a primary care provider may inquire about testing at local urgent care centers.