Less than one week after Thanksgiving, Boston University broke its record Wednesday for the highest number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in one day: 26, including 16 students and 10 employees.
The same day, Massachusetts reported its highest single-day case count: 4,613.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the University had anticipated a rise in infections on campus as well as across the state.
“All that information we had sent out prior to [Thanksgiving] indicated our concern about a bump,” Riley said.
BU had issued multiple emails throughout the semester requesting students stay home for the remainder of the term if they leave campus for Thanksgiving.
One College of Arts and Sciences senior, who requested to remain anonymous, had returned home to celebrate Thanksgiving. She was back in her on-campus apartment when she received news her father tested positive for COVID-19.
She had traveled to Cape Cod over the break to have dinner with her family before returning to BU on Friday — the day her father and her great-aunt tested for the virus. When she discovered Sunday both results were positive, the student called the University and was sent to quarantine housing.
“I thought that we had done everything to be safe and that there was no chance,” the student said.
The student’s family was planning to visit the aunt for the holiday, she said, but discovered Wednesday four people had tested positive at her retirement facility. Because of this, the aunt didn’t join the family for Thanksgiving dinner.
But her parents later remembered they had invited her aunt over for dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving, she said. Before she became aware of this, the student said, she had chosen to return to campus for the learning environment offered by in-person classes.
“I decided to come back because I am in a lot of classes that are studio-based, and there’s not a very conducive online equivalent to that,” she said. “I’m especially finding out now.”
After going into quarantine, she received her first negative COVID-19 test Monday. Unless she tests positive before her quarantine period ends, her roommates can remain in their apartment.
Before the student went into quarantine, she said, her household had begun wearing masks around the apartment because her roommates also “saw some people” who visited Boston for Thanksgiving.
“We kind of were self-isolating in our own apartment,” she said. “We’re all very thankful for that now.”
Also self-isolating in his apartment is a Questrom School of Business sophomore who requested anonymity. The off-campus student had flown to Memphis, Tenn. for the break and returned Tuesday.
He spent the holiday with his sister, and said he felt less apprehensive about taking the trip because his primary concern surrounding COVID-19 is the potential to pass it to those who are in a higher-risk age group, such as his parents.
“Because I was only hanging out with my sister, I felt like it was more of a safe space,” the student said. “If my plans were to go home to where my parents are living, I wouldn’t have left.”
He said he plans to stay confined to his apartment for the next two weeks with the help of food and grocery delivery services. He will be living alone, he said, because his roommates have gone home for the semester.
Coronavirus infections have been rising at BU since mid-October, according to the University’s COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard. Students make up more than 70 percent of total cases found by on-campus testing facilities.
Current case trends will factor into public health measures and help inform BU’s decisions, Riley said.
This poses a potential dilemma for Questrom junior Maxwell James, who transferred to BU this Fall and is studying remotely. He said he plans to come to campus next semester, but the increase in case numbers may prompt changes to collegiate hybrid learning formats.
“I’m not concerned for my safety,” James said. “But I’m concerned the response this might garner from government officials, or even BU officials, not letting people come back in the Spring.”
James said if the University were to remove the in-person learning option from Spring semester — which is currently slated to continue under Learn from Anywhere — his feelings as a student would conflict with his judgment of best practices for public safety.
“I just transferred to BU, and I’d be super excited to meet all the people I interact with on Zoom,” James said. “But I know that it’s probably the right decision if the cases keep going up.”
Nick Kolev contributed to the reporting of this article.