Boston University Announces Details About COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing Program
by Grace Ferguson
Boston University released new information on Wednesday about its COVID-19 testing and tracing program. It’s one part of the university’s “Back2BU” plan to bring students and faculty back to campus this fall.
BU will process the tests in its own facility on campus, with a 24-hour turnaround for each test.
The university has separated students, faculty, and staff into four categories for testing and contact tracing. Category 1 includes residential students and those who spend a lot of time with them, including faculty. It also includes those with a higher risk of COVID-19 and those who commute via public transportation. Category 2 includes students and employees who commute to campus but don’t have much contact with residential students. Category 3 is employees who don’t interact much with students. Category 4 is everyone in the BU community who does not come to campus. These people will not be tested.
Everyone who comes to campus will be tested on arrival, but after that, the frequency of testing will vary by category. Members of Categories 1 and 2 will be tested at least weekly. Community members will be prompted to sign up for testing at one of multiple locations on campus.
You might be picturing a healthcare professional sticking an extra-long swab all the way up someone’s nose, but BU will use the RT-PCR test, which only requires a self-administered nostril swab.
BU has set aside about 500 beds for isolation and quarantine. The university has drawn a distinction between those two terms.
If a student living on campus tests positive for COVID-19, they will go into isolation. That means they will be put in a room with another student who has tested positive. If a student might have been exposed to the virus, they will be put in quarantine while they wait for their test results. Quarantined students will stay in a single with a private bathroom.
BU Dining Services will deliver food to isolated and quarantined students so they don’t have to leave their rooms. Student Health Services will monitor their health and provide care when necessary.
Meanwhile, if an employee tests positive, they will be directed to isolate at home.
As for contact tracing, BU will trace infections for people in the first two categories. If a student tests positive, anyone who has been in close contact with them will be tested, and quarantined if they live on campus. If a student is showing COVID-19 symptoms, all of their close contacts will quarantine while the student waits for their test results. It’s not clear yet how BU will find contacts.
Every day, community members will have to log into an app or web portal where they will report whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. According to the Back2BU website, community members will also have to check their temperature daily– the website doesn’t mention whether thermometers will be provided.
The app will generate a passport that community members might need to access buildings or events. It will also report test results and facilitate test scheduling.
BU President Robert Brown had previously mentioned that students might have to download a contact tracing app. None of BU’s materials currently mention whether the new app will facilitate contact tracing.