News, Top Story, Administration, Coronavirus Updates

BC Begins First Day of Testing in Conte Forum

Boston College conducted its first day of COVID-19 testing on Monday in Conte Forum, administering 2,277 tests to faculty, staff, and students, according to a letter sent to the BC community on Tuesday. 

The University announced last week that the app it planned on using for test scheduling and symptom monitoring would not be ready in time for the initial testing of community members arriving on campus. But Monday’s testing went smoothly, the letter said, with an average testing time ranging between 10 and 15 minutes and quickly moving lines.

The letter also clarified that the CoVerified app was never intended to be used for contact tracing, and it said that BC will perform contact tracing in collaboration with local departments of health.

“Our testing capabilities remain unaffected by the absence of the CoVerified app,” the letter read. “Testing this week and next, and ongoing symptomatic and asymptomatic surveillance testing through University Health Services, will proceed as planned.”

Faculty and staff can still walk in for testing, but the email urged all employees to be tested before the end of the week. Students will begin a phased move-in starting on Monday. 

In lieu of using the app for scheduling initial testing, community members being tested between Aug. 18 and 23 can schedule a half-hour testing window using a Google Form application established by BC’s Information Technology Services. Off-campus students, faculty, and staff will receive an email with details for accessing the scheduler, the letter said.

The Office of Residential Life emailed students Tuesday night to clarify that on-campus students will still be tested during their scheduled appointment times. Walk-in appointments for next week that were mentioned in the prior update will only be available to off-campus students.

Students, faculty, and staff will all be required to sign a consent form from the Broad Institute before being tested, the letter said. Food, beverages, and large bags will not be permitted in Conte Forum during testing.

Individuals should have their Eagle IDs or Eagle ID numbers available when they arrive for testing, the letter said. The Broad Institute will email individuals to notify them of negative results once their tests have been analyzed, and the physician overseeing testing will contact individuals who test positive. 

First Year Academic Convocation, with speaker Bruce Springsteen, will now be held virtually, the letter announced. Convocation was originally slated to be held in Conte Forum and was moved to Alumni Stadium over the summer. 

Eighty-seven percent of students signed the Eagles Care Pledge, which asks students to pledge to maintain their own well-being and that of others, as of Tuesday. The letter called for the remainder of students to sign it by the end of the day. 

The letter also asked students to meet the expectations laid out in the pledge, follow state and federal health guidelines, and act responsibly both on and off campus during days, nights, and weekends. 

“Returning to and sustaining campus activities this fall will require all members of our community to take personal responsibility and do their part to help limit the potential spread of the coronavirus on campus,” the letter said. 

The letter reminded students that parties on or off campus are prohibited.

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College launched an Instagram campaign on Monday calling upon students to nominate their friends to commit to keeping campus safe during the semester. Using the hashtag #KeepTheHeightsHome, the initiative encourages students to share a post saying that they will do their part by wearing masks, social distancing, and not letting the semester end early.

Tuesday’s letter comes on the same day the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked all students to leave their residence halls, unless they are unable to do so, after the university’s first week of classes.

UNC reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 between Aug. 10 and Aug. 16, and it had only four rooms remaining in the residence hall it designated for quarantining students as of Monday, according to The Daily Tar Heel. UNC did not test students coming to campus prior to the start of the semester. 

Videos circulated on social media showed hordes of UNC students gathering for off-campus parties and not wearing masks during students’ first weekend back. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the University of Notre Dame, which began classes last week, announced that it would move classes online for two weeks in an effort to contain rapid spreading of the virus. 

Unlike UNC, Notre Dame conducted testing before students’ return to campus beginning on Aug. 3, at which point 33 students, or .28 percent, tested positive. By Tuesday, the university reported 147 total positive cases, with all but one being students. Most cases were linked to off-campus gatherings where students did not wear masks or practice physical distancing. 

For the next two weeks, Notre Dame will tighten the reins on student life, including by not allowing off-campus students to visit campus, encouraging on-campus students not to leave campus unless for emergencies, and further restricting the size of student gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

August 19, 2020