August 11, 2020
Dear Members of the Boston College Community:
We write to provide further information about plans for the fall semester at Boston College, which will begin on August 31.
As you know from our weekly updates, University administrators, faculty, and staff have spent the past five months planning how best to resume our academic operations while creating the health protocols necessary to keep our community safe. These efforts have resulted in our plan for a mix of in-class, online, and hybrid courses during the fall semester, which will have the same expectations of classes offered in previous years. Our faculty are ready to teach in any mode, and we have made the investments in classroom technology and faculty training, as well as needed adjustments in classroom configurations, to enable us to proceed on schedule.
We have made similar investments in preparing our residence halls, dining facilities, and campus buildings to meet the demands of these challenging times. From extensive cleaning and sanitization efforts to mandatory testing, daily symptoms monitoring, and contact tracing, we have created a plan that we believe will enable us to open and operate in a safe and effective manner.
As reported, we will require mandatory testing for all members of the community who plan to be on campus this fall. We have contracted with The Broad Institute for COVID-19 testing, and the firm CoVerified for an app to schedule testing appointments and provide daily self-health checks. The costs of the tests will be covered by the University.
Please look for an email (August 14-15) that will include details on how to download the app and make an appointment for the test.
In the following section, Dr. Doug Comeau, director of University Health Services and Primary Care Sports Medicine, provides an overview of the University’s testing plan.
COVID-19 Testing at Boston College
While all faculty, staff, and students will be required to practice appropriate physical distancing, wear masks, and monitor their symptoms on a daily basis, mass testing at the beginning of the semester followed by extensive asymptomatic and high-contact, randomized surveillance testing each week will help provide for the safety of those in the Boston College community and our surrounding neighborhoods.
COVID-19 testing for all Boston College faculty, students, and staff will take place daily (including weekends) from August 17 until August 30. The first week will be focused on tests for faculty and staff, in addition to undergrads arriving early or working on campus, as well as some graduate and professional students. Testing of all remaining undergraduate and graduate/professional students, whether they are living on or off campus, will begin on August 24. The test will be an anterior nares RT-PCR swab, with results expected within 6-26 hours.
The main testing site will be Conte Forum, which is ADA accessible, with two satellite testing centers on Upper Campus and Newton Campus during high-volume move-in times to accommodate students living in these areas. Faculty, staff, and students will enter Conte Forum through the main entrance on the Beacon Street side and be guided into eight lines to register and receive a printed test label.
They will then proceed to the 20 separate test stations on the Conte floor where testing will occur. All will receive a wristband indicating that they have been tested, and undergraduate students will begin their move-in process.
Students living on campus will not be allowed to move into University housing before taking a COVID-19 test, which will be returned from The Broad Institute within 6-26 hours. Until they have received notice that their tests are negative, all students will be required to quarantine in place in their residence hall room or off-campus housing. This quarantine in place will include strict protocols for wearing face coverings, and very limited movement.
Some individuals may be granted an exemption from the test, including faculty, students, and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days via a valid PCR test. Students meeting this criterion must upload the appropriate documentation to University Health Services via the University’s AGORA portal no later than 24 hours prior to their test day on campus. Antibody and antigen testing, as well as other tests, do not exempt BC community members from obtaining a PCR test on arrival to campus. Faculty and staff may also seek an exemption if they have received an accommodation or have an approved remote work plan and will not be returning to campus at any point this semester, are on long-term disability or extended leave (e.g. sick leave, maternity leave), or have other special circumstances. To seek a testing exemption, faculty and staff must submit necessary documents to Boston College Human Resources via a form available on the Office of Institutional Diversity website.
The Broad Institute will notify faculty, staff, and students who test negative. The Broad will also inform the Massachusetts Board of Health and the director of University Health Services, who serves as the physician of record for tests, about any positive tests; and he or a designee will then communicate directly with those who test positive or whose test is indeterminate. Please note that an indeterminate result is not a positive result, but will necessitate retesting. All students living on campus who test positive during asymptomatic screening will be immediately placed in isolation in University housing for a minimum of 10 days and must be symptom free for 24 hours before they can be released from isolation. University Health Services staff will monitor on a daily basis all undergraduates in quarantine and isolation, and Dining Services will deliver food to their locations.
The University, working with state and local departments of health, will also conduct extensive contact tracing of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, particularly to obtain information about activities within six feet of others for longer than 15 minutes during the previous 48 hours without appropriate mask or face covering. In accordance with state and federal guidelines, any Boston College student living on campus linked to a person found to be positive for the coronavirus will be quarantined in University housing for 14 days, monitored by University Health Services staff, and provided meals by BC Dining Services. Especially during the first two weeks of testing, undergraduates in residence halls who must quarantine or isolate themselves and who live within driving distance of their homes will be encouraged to return home. Undergraduate and graduate/professional students living off-campus will quarantine and isolate at their apartment or home, where they will continue their studies remotely and be monitored by University Health Services.
The University will use the CoVerified app, which is integrated with The Broad Institute process. All faculty, staff, and students on campus will be required to download the app prior to their arrival on campus, and utilize it each day for their self-health check regarding COVID-19 symptoms (as determined by the CDC), as well as a mode to obtain negative test results and schedule further testing. During the daily self-check, students, faculty, and staff who indicate they have no symptoms will achieve a green “ok” notice on their smartphone. If symptoms are indicated, faculty, graduate/professional students, and staff will be instructed not to travel to campus; students living on and off campus will be directed to phone University Health Services for consultation regarding next steps.
University Health Services was reconfigured this summer to have two separate clinic spaces for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 treatment. Should students believe they may have coronavirus symptoms, either from their own assessment or prompted by the CoVerified app, they will be given an appointment in the COVID-19 clinic area and evaluated by a healthcare professional. If a swab test is needed based on symptoms, a sample will be obtained and sent to a lab for processing, which could be in UHS or the Boston College lab in Higgins Hall, providing results in approximately 3-4 hours. The student tested will wait for the results in a plexiglass-partitioned room and, if positive, will immediately go to isolation. If negative, the student will be further evaluated.
Boston College has devoted much time and energy to developing its plan for responding to COVID-19, and we believe this plan will be effective in helping to keep the campus and neighbors as safe as possible.
Eagles Care Pledge
On July 23, we sent a letter to all undergraduate students requiring them to read and sign the Eagles Care Pledge, which states specific health and safety expectations for the coming year. We urge all members of the BC community, including faculty, staff and graduate/professional students, also to adhere to this pledge, in our community-wide effort to help safeguard the health and well-being of those on and off campus.
Given the reality of COVID-19, I pledge to act according to the following expectations:
- Engage each morning in a daily “self-check” to monitor for the symptoms of COVID-19, and to contact University Health Services if I have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher, dry cough, difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell. (For the latest list of COVID-19 symptoms, see the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
- Keep personal items and spaces and shared common areas clean.
- Take preventive measures to keep healthy, including vaccinations (e.g., seasonal flu).
- Participate in testing and contact tracing as required by the University and public health officials.
- If necessary, follow isolation and/or quarantine protocols as directed by UHS.
- Wear an appropriate face mask or covering as directed by the University.
- Maintain appropriate physical distancing and mask use in classrooms, dining spaces, residence halls, and whenever recreating on or off-campus, especially in the presence of those who may be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus because of age or health issues.
- Stay home or in my residence hall if feeling ill.
- Follow health protocols regarding COVID-19 when off-campus.
- Encourage peers to know and adhere to the Eagles Care pledge and government guidelines regarding COVID-19.
- Limit travel during the semester whenever possible.
- Be caring, sensitive, and helpful to anyone who may be troubled or struggling with such concerns as health, academics, and personal matters.
Please continue to utilize this website should you have additional questions. The FAQs are updated regularly.
We are grateful to you for your patience and support as we begin another academic year.