Boston University currently holds around 20 students in designated isolation housing, which is reserved for those on campus who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Sophomore Jasmine, who requested her last name not be published, is among them.
Jasmine’s first on-campus test came back negative, but her suitemate, who moved into their dorm the following day, tested positive. As a close contact, Jasmine was first placed in quarantine before testing positive and being moved to isolation housing Aug. 21.
“In quarantine, they regularly test you just to make sure that you’re still negative,” Jasmine said. “And from the brief interaction I had with her the day she moved in, I guess I ended up catching it from her, which is how I got a positive test and got put in isolation.”
Although Jasmine’s suitemate had already informed her that she had tested positive, Jasmine said it took several hours for BU to notify her that she needed to be moved into quarantine housing.
“The only part where I would say BU messed up is when my suitemate tested positive before they put me into quarantine,” Jasmine said. “It took them a really long time to call me. I stayed in my dorm room because I knew she had tested positive… but it took them a good six hours to call me.”
After Jasmine tested positive herself, she said she was moved into isolation housing within two hours of receiving the result. She will stay until Monday, when she completes the mandatory isolation period.
Quarantine is a 14-day stay-in-place period for those who have potentially been exposed to coronavirus but have not yet shown symptoms. Isolation lasts 10 days and is required when an individual already displayed symptoms or tested positive.
In accordance with safety protocols, any service worker who enters an isolation building wears a hazmat suit, Jasmine said, and no one else is allowed in the building.
Jasmine said Student Health Services calls daily to assess self-reported symptoms, and Residence Life can also regularly check in over the phone on her food and water supply and overall wellbeing.
“We still have to submit the daily symptoms of how we feel,” Jasmine said. “If you do start to feel any symptoms while in isolation, then the 10 days has to restart from the day you feel your symptoms.”
While she is currently asymptomatic, Jasmine said there are procedures in place to help her if she begins to feel ill.
“If the symptoms aren’t too bad, we can call Student Health Services, and they can bring us medicine or whatever we need,” Jasmine said. “But they said if the symptoms get really bad, like we can’t breathe, to just go ahead and call 911 first and go get taken care of, and then afterwards inform the school.”
She also said she won’t be tested for COVID-19 for another 90 days.
“Apparently, you can test positive, a false positive, for up to 90 days after you catch [COVID-19],” Jasmine said. “After 10 days, you’re no longer contagious, but you can still test positive.”
Catherine Klapperich, director of BU’s COVID-19 testing, had previously confirmed this to The Daily Free Press.
Jasmine said she was allowed to bring her own belongings, but found almost everything she needed in the room provided by BU.
BU Spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email that there are nearly 800 beds set aside for quarantine and isolation. He wrote that rooms are furnished with necessities such as wireless internet, bed linen, pillow, towels and food.
“The quarantine and isolation accommodations include a supply of groceries and beverages, and BU Dining Services will provide regular delivery of prepared meals for reheating, fresh fruit, produce, and dairy products,” Riley wrote. “All quarantine and isolation spaces will contain a MicroFridge or a small kitchen with a microwave and refrigerator.”
An email from Director of Residence Life David Zamojski to students required to relocate detailed what they would have access to, such as food, laundry vendors and XFINITY On Campus. It also outlined what they should consider bringing with them, including clothing to last up to 14 days, a comforter, toiletries and chargers.
They were also provided with essential contact information and informed that they would receive transportation to and from the isolation housing.
The email also stated students are not to receive any deliveries, and to contact BU staff if there is anything they need.
“Once inside your room, except for a medical or fire emergency, it is critical to both your health and others that you do not leave the building,” the email stated.
With classes starting this week, Jasmine said the experience has not significantly disrupted her schedule, and she was able to reschedule in-person meetings on campus to remote meetings on Zoom.
As of Friday, 38 out of 25,973 BU community members have tested positive for the virus, making the University’s positivity rate 0.15 percent, according to BU’s COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard.
Upon their return to Boston, students must take a COVID-19 test at one of the four on-campus test collection sites, according to the Back2BU website. They are then advised to stay-in-place in their residence until they receive three negative results.
All faculty, staff and students must record their daily symptoms and schedule frequent testing through the Patient Connect portal.
Richard Galgano, associate director of Primary Care at SHS, said the Healthway department was developed to coordinate testing and other matters related to COVID-19. He said Healthway staff will contact students who test positive by phone and will conduct contact tracing investigations.
Students living in BU residences who switch into quarantine or isolation housing will remain in those spaces until approved for release by a Healthway health care provider. Galgano said the duration of student isolation is based on guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Those placed in isolation work with contact tracers to identify people the patient was in close contact with while they were infectious, Galgano said.
“Contact tracers then notify individuals who may have been exposed to the patient,” Galgano said. “The process is conducted in a manner which preserves confidentiality. Individuals identified as close contacts are provided information and support.”
The CDC identifies “close contact” as being within six feet of another person for at least 15 minutes.
As the pandemic continues to evolve, the University encourages students to check the Back2BU website frequently for updated information. The impact of testing and quarantine protocols on campus life remains uncertain as the semester begins.
Riley wrote that BU does not currently have any concerns regarding the number of students in isolation.
“The screening, testing and contact tracing that the University has implemented is designed to limit and contain the spread of the virus,” Riley wrote, “and will do so as long as members of the BU community commit to following all of the other public health guidance.”