Metro, Boston, Coronavirus Updates

Confirmed Case of Coronavirus in Massachusetts, Risk Still Low

A Boston resident has been confirmed to have Massachusetts’ first case of the coronavirus strain responsible for the recent outbreak of respiratory disease in Wuhan, China. Despite growing concerns about the virus, the risk to Massachusetts residents remains low, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

There are no confirmed or suspected cases of the virus at Boston College, Thomas Nary, director of University Health Services (UHS), told The Heights in an email on Wednesday. Nary also said that students who have returned from impacted areas at the beginning of the semester and came into UHS should pose no risk. With an incubation period of 10 days to two weeks, all students UHS saw are outside of that window.

“In other words, they have been back from break longer than the incubation period, so there is no risk,” Nary said. “There may be some students who have returned later, but we have not encountered any, as yet.”   

BC is working with Boston and Massachusetts officials to monitor the virus, Nary said in a University-wide email. He also said that the University has already been practicing the measures that it uses to combat a regular flu season. 

“Because we are in the midst of the traditional flu virus season, many campus practices to safeguard the health of students, faculty, and staff are already in place,” Nary said in the email. “Staff from BC Housekeeping and Dining Services routinely disinfect touch-points — such as switch panels, faucets, doorknobs and handrails — throughout campus. Similarly, the coronavirus is effectively treated with standard cleaning products.”

Nary recommended washing hands, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding the sharing of items such as food utensils and containers to prevent the spread of flu-like illness. Nary also advised students with a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to visit UHS.  

In an email to international students and scholars at BC, Adrienne Nussbaum, director and associate dean of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said that her office has heard rumors of discrimination against students from the areas most impacted by coronavirus.

“This [discrimination] will not be tolerated on the BC campus,” Nussbaum said. “If you have been a victim of this type of discrimination, please contact either our office or the Office of Instituational [sic] Diversity immediately.”

Nary said in an email with The Heights that there is no need to be overly afraid of the coronavirus. 

“Be calm and remember that there are several thousand people [who] die of the ‘regular flu’ every year in the U.S.” Nary wrote. “There is always fear of the unknown, but becoming educated and using good health practices is the best approach.” 

As of Sunday, there were eight confirmed cases of the 2019 novel strain of coronavirus in the United States, including the one in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is the only New England state with a confirmed case of the virus. 

Chinese officials have reported on Sunday that the virus had led to at least 304 deaths in the country, according to The New York Times. The Trump administration announced Friday that the United States would be barring any foreign national who had been to any part of China during the previous 14 days from entering the United States. Returning U.S. citizens who visited the Hubei province in that window of time will be quarantined for up to two weeks, according to Business Insider.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / For The Heights

February 2, 2020