News, On Campus, Top Story, Coronavirus Updates

Six BC Undergrads Test Positive, Students Report Delayed Results

Boston College had conducted more than 13,390 COVID-19 tests with eight total positive results as of Friday, according to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard. More than 5,600 undergraduates have been tested, and six have tested positive.

BC said in a release that more than 11,000 tests had been successfully processed within six to 26 hours as of Thursday.

The University said in multiple email updates over the summer that students’ results would be available within six to 26 hours of testing, but The Heights has received reports from over two dozen students that it took more than 26 hours to receive their test results. 

Director of University Health Services Douglas Comeau and Senior Associate Director of University Communications Ed Hayward did not respond to interview requests from The Heights about testing delays.

Comeau said in the University release that it can take up to five hours for the Broad Institute to receive tests, which can add time to the testing window. BC wrote in the release that testing and move-in is advancing smoothly, though it mentioned that there have been some delays. 

“As with any large scale testing effort, there will be occasional delays and some inconclusive results that will require retesting, but we are pleased with the testing procedure and the very low rate of positive test results,” Comeau said in the release.

The University release said that tests, “which are shipped to The Broad Institute three times a day, continue to be processed within six to 26 hours after being received by the Broad laboratory.” Even with the five-hour transportation cushion factored in, though, some students have experienced quarantine periods beyond the 26-hour mark.

Cole Kennedy, MCAS ’21, was among the first students to experience delays when he moved in on Aug. 18. On Aug. 19, past the 26-hour mark from when he was tested, Kennedy called the Boston College Police Department to ask how he could get food for the next day, because it was the only number open 24 hours, he said. BCPD directed him to call University Health Services in the morning. 

Over 40 hours after being tested, he called UHS on the morning of Aug. 20 to ask why he still had not gotten his results. He said UHS directed him to contact the Broad Institute. Kennedy also emailed Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley that morning to ask why his test was delayed. 

Later that morning, Kennedy spoke with a representative from the Broad Institute, who told him the institute had lost his test sample, among eight others, and that he would have to be re-tested. 

Shortly after his phone call with the institute, while Kennedy was being tested again at Conte Forum—which he said was quick and efficient akin to his first testing experience—he received a voicemail from Vice President & Executive Assistant to the President Kevin Shea about his test.

“Everything went well until it didn’t,” Kennedy said. “The biggest issue was contacting people because nothing was moving until I got in contact with David Quigley, and from there I got a call from VP [Shea]. … Nothing really budged on the testing side until I talked to the Broad Institute.” 

When asked for a comment, Shea directed The Heights to University Communications.

“As would be expected with any large-scale testing effort, the Broad Institute did have an issue with 9 tests, but the individuals have all been notified and have since been retested,” Hayward said in an email to The Heights on Aug. 21.

A blip is not uncommon for testing at such a large volume, Karen Zusi, media relations manager for the Broad Institute, said in an email to The Heights.

“Occasionally a small number of test samples (far less than one percent) can be misdirected during processing, and this is what happened here,” said Zusi in the email. “When this happens, we inform the test provider and ask for a re-test, which can often take place the same day depending on the site. We will then turn around the result within 24 hours or less.” 

The Broad Institute is currently analyzing tens of thousands of tests daily in Massachusetts and nearby communities in order to support public health needs, Zusi said. 

Kennedy had the standard four meals that BC Dining gave students upon move-in to hold him over through the quarantine period in his dorm while awaiting his test results. Luckily, Kennedy said, his roommates had already moved into their on-campus apartment, which has a full kitchen, so he did not run out of food. But he recommended in a Facebook post that other students bring their own additional food “just in case.” 

“Knowing now, I would have brought more stuff with me, but it was resolved fairly quickly,” Kennedy said.

The Office of Residential Life emailed students Thursday evening with instructions for how to request more food in the event that students’ quarantine time exceeds the four meals they were initially provided at check-in. Dining Services will coordinate with students to drop the meals off at their rooms, the email said.

Students seeking meals for the following morning should submit a request by 7:30 p.m. the night before, the email said, and for all other meals students should expect an hour or an hour and a half for BC Dining to prepare and deliver their meals after placing their request.

The University launched a COVID-19 dashboard last Friday that reports the total numbers of BC community members it tests, the total number of positive cases, the number of undergraduates tested, the number of undergraduates who have tested positive, the number of undergraduates currently in isolation, and other updates on reopening. 

BC previously directed off-campus students to quarantine and self-isolate in their own residences if they are exposed to or contract the virus.

Daily testing will continue through the second day of classes on Sept. 1, according to the dashboard. Daily testing was originally scheduled through Aug. 31, but BC said it extended the date to accommodate students who could not arrive sooner.

Scott Baker contributed reporting.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

August 30, 2020