When Boston University reopened campus for the Fall 2020 semester, Student Health Services transformed nearly entirely.
It now carries out large-scale coronavirus testing for faculty and students, as well as contact tracing, but continues to provide the regular health services it did prior to the outbreak.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the University’s medical services made a smooth transition to telehealth operations, but hired a number of new employees to staff its testing sites, meaning BU’s primary focus has mostly been pandemic-related.
“There are a lot of moving parts, and during a pandemic, it makes it more challenging and difficult,” Riley said. “There’s been a lot of funding to support the testing and contact-tracing screening process beginning back in July.”
Riley said those new SHS staff members have adjusted to the change in operations for the organization as a whole.
“These are frontline workers who have families of their own, and our health care professionals, they’re doing an extraordinary job,” Riley said. “This year is not what anyone envisioned.”
Annalise Karolitzky, a freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said scheduling appointments for and taking the COVID-19 tests on campus has been easy for her.
“The testing is pretty painless. I don’t mind it at all,” Karolitzky said. “They’re really flexible about it, as long as you go to the appointment that you’ve scheduled for that day.”
Karolitzky also said her interactions with staff and frontline workers at testing sites have been positive, citing one accident she had with her COVID-19 test.
“I also had one instance where I actually dropped my test, and I thought I was going to get yelled at, and they were so nice about it. They were so accommodating,” Karolitzky said. “They just gave me a new one and were like, ‘Don’t worry about it, it happens all the time.’”
The modern medical landscape is changing as a result of COVID-19, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated telehealth services allow for the provision of vital care while effectively minimizing transmission risks.
SHS has also been able to keep its holistic health mission through the use of telehealth.
Melissa Taylor, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said her behavioral health screening via Zoom in October was a positive experience.
Taylor said she was feeling ill last week and took the daily symptom attestation required of on-campus students. Because of her symptoms, Taylor received her test at Health Services Annex — an alternative testing site at the back of Agganis Arena for symptomatic students.
“I took that test and then I was technically under quarantine for the rest of the day,” Taylor said. “The next morning, I got my test back, and they were like, ‘You’re fine.’”
Karolitzky said she is worried about the rise in cases, and noted a high number of students currently in isolation on her floor in Kilachand Hall. She said she does not intend to return to campus for the semester partly due to her fear of the virus, but also because she has found it challenging to make friends.
“I think BU probably does not really care about the freshmen experience and more about the fact that they are getting our money from living on campus,” Karolitzky said. “People are in each other’s rooms, not wearing their masks. COVID rules are kind of lax and sometimes not always clear, so people find loopholes within them.”
There were 52 students in isolation and five positive test results on Tuesday, according to BU’s COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard. Taylor questioned the administration’s transparency around sharing these statistics.
“They can be doing better, sharing more,” Taylor said. “I also understand that … they’re trying to figure out how to make their business look good too, which is frustrating because we’re supporting that business.”
Judy Platt, the Director of SHS, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.