As the fall semester slowly begins, with new precautions in place, at Boston University and nearby Emerson College, at least one person at each institution has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The tests may not be the last among students who return to universities in the Boston area this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local schools, including BU and Emerson, have announced detailed plans for keeping students, faculty and staff safe, but questions linger about whether extended in-person teaching will be possible.
Emerson College in downtown Boston announced Monday its first and only case on campus of the fall semester. One person -- their affiliation to the school wasn't specified -- tested positive out of nearly 250 tested through the weekend, according to a statement from Emerson.
The school's head of response to COVID-19, Erik Muurisepp, said in a statement that it was working on a dashboard to collect information on COVID testing. Students aren't due to start moving in until Friday.
Boston University, where students began moving in this past weekend, already has a dashboard showing how many students have tested positive for the coronavirus. It shows eight positive tests among students since July 27, with all but one coming since Aug. 11.
Still, the coronavirus rates reported by BU and Emerson are both lower than the state average, as well as Boston's, meaning fewer people are testing positive there per capita than in the state as a whole.
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Both schools have given students the option of coming to campus or continuing remote learning, and here are testing rules in place at both as well. BU students must take COVID tests when they arrive to campus and every two days afterwards, while those returning to Emerson must test negative by the day they get to campus.
Other universities in the Boston area haven't begun reporting coronavirus testing data. And it's still early
Universities across the region and the country have been struggling with whether and how to bring students back to campus safely this fall. But some that have already opened have reported coronavirus clusters.
On Monday, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became the first college to send its students back home after reopening. It reported 135 positive cases within a week of classes resuming.
David Long, a consultant who helped the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation create recommendations for colleges and universities to reopen, told The Associated Press that more schools are expected to switch to remote learning soon “because it's so difficult to create these systems where everybody is essentially behaving appropriately, meaning social distancing, wearing PPE and not gathering in groups.”