Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has urged the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to strengthen its oversight of Boston College in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases on campus.
“While the number of new cases in Newton are moving in the right direction, we’re continuing to see a concerning number of cases at Boston College,” Fuller said in a statement on Thursday.
Members of the BC community living in Newton either on campus or off campus made up 76 of the 208 cases in Newton—36.5 percent—from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13, according to Fuller.
Fuller did not immediately respond to request to comment by press time.
Students that reside in Newton, both on Newton campus or in off-campus housing in Newton, and test positive for the virus are accounted for in Newton’s number of positive cases, according to Fuller’s statement.
Newton had 112 new cases from Feb. 11 to Feb. 17, an increase of eight cases from the previous week, according to Fuller.
Fuller said that BC had 143 cases from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14, about half of which were among those living in Newton.
“We are continuing to urge Boston College officials that their students strictly adhere to public health guidelines and to urge the state to strengthen the oversight,” Fuller said.
Newton reported an average of 16.2 cases per 100,000 residents between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16, compared to Boston’s 30.4 cases per 100,000 residents in the same period.
Michael Lochhead, executive vice president and acting vice president for student affairs, sent an email to students on Thursday denying the rumor that BC was going into lockdown on Friday.
Lochhead also emailed students on Feb. 9 warning of the possibility that BC would implement further restrictions, including possibly sending students home early for the semester, if the rise in cases continued. The email also said that the University was reaching a “critical stage” with respect to COVID-19. Students were required to attend mandatory Zoom meetings with reminders of University COVID-19 protocols.
Lochhead said that the uptick in cases and close contacts is particularly evident among members of the freshman class. About 40 percent of the freshman class live on Newton campus, according to BC’s Office of Residential Life.
Fuller’s concern echoes those that she raised in September. On Sept. 12 Fuller said that she was “gravely concerned” with the recent rise in cases on BC’s campus at the time, following the report that members of BC’s women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams tested positive for COVID-19.
The Commonwealth became involved with BC’s contact tracing program in September. Mass. Governor Charlie Baker said during a press conference in September that the three cities and towns that surround BC—Newton, Brookline, and Brighton—could handle contact tracing across the multiple jurisdictions more effectively than BC’s contract tracing program.
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff