As community members trickle back onto campus for the spring semester, Boston College has resumed its COVID-19 testing, reporting 53 new undergraduate cases of COVID-19 out of 9,983 undergraduate tests performed since Jan. 19, according to its COVID-19 dashboard, a positivity rate of .53 percent.
There are currently 56 undergraduate students in isolation as of Thursday, with 39 in isolation housing and 17 recovering at home. Twenty-eight non-undergraduates have also tested positive for COVID-19 out of 6,635 tests, a positivity rate of .42 percent.
BC has received 100 vaccine doses for the University’s “first responders,” according to a Monday letter from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. to the BC community. The University is waiting for direction from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for scheduling and distribution of the vaccine to students, faculty, and staff.
The Commonwealth is currently in the first phase of its vaccine distribution program, which includes health care workers, first responders, and those in assisted living facilities. Although young adults and the general public are not slated to be vaccinated until phase three, some BC students who qualify for phase one have already received the vaccine. Phase three is projected to begin as early as April, according to Massachusetts’ vaccine distribution timeline.
“In accordance with Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines, students who have received COVID-19 vaccination are still subject to both asymptomatic surveillance testing and, if exposed as a close contact, quarantine procedures,” said Senior Associate Director of University Communications Ed Hayward in a statement to The Heights.
In the letter, Leahy wrote that the successful fall semester was due in part to the collaboration of University Health Services with faculty and students of the Connell School of Nursing, athletic trainers, and BC Emergency Medical Services in collecting COVID-19 samples. He also credited Welkin Johnson, chair of the biology department, and his team for establishing the state-certified lab on campus for processing COVID-19 samples.
Leahy also attributed the success of the fall semester to how the community adapted to online learning, testing, and contact tracing procedures, as well as the efforts of faculty, staff, students, and administrators to keep the community safe.
Despite these efforts, Leahy wrote, the BC community encountered some issues as it tackled COVID-19, citing the outbreak among undergraduates in September.
“Clusters of infection developed in early September and after Halloween, true also at other institutions in Boston and throughout the nation,” Leahy wrote. “The coronavirus has taken a psychological and physical toll on our community, just as it has around our country and the whole world.”
Leahy also asked that the community join him in praying for those affected by the death of Chia-Kuang “Frank” Tsung, an associate chemistry professor at BC, from COVID-19 complications on Jan. 5.
Looking toward the spring semester, Leahy urged the University to remain vigilant against COVID-19, and he also encouraged perspective and dialogue among the community regarding the political and social divisions in the United States. He also referenced BC’s recently established Forum on Racial Justice in America and said that BC has a responsibility to engage with contemporary issues and promote ethical decision-making.
“Since its founding in 1863, Boston College has persevered through difficult periods: World War I, the 1918 influenza, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and World War II,” Leahy wrote. “In the midst of the global pandemic and the political and social conflicts that now face our world, may we continue to live up to our motto ‘Ever to Excel,’ offer a model for others to follow, and remain a beacon of hope for the world.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff