Boston’s Emerson College Drops Joint COVID Testing Strategy and Takes Stricter Approach

Emerson College stepped up its COVID-19 testing protocols this week, as other universities in the northeast and the country return to online learning amid an alarming number of coronavirus cases.

Emerson began administering individual polymerase chain reaction tests on Tuesday – instead of relying on its pooled PCR testing strategy, the Boston Private Liberal Arts College said in a COVID-19 update. Emerson offered no explanation for the change.

But a strategy of group testing, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, is less effective – and more expensive – when coronavirus cases are more prevalent.

When pooled test results are positive, individual lab samples should be retested to determine which individuals are infected, according to the CDC. If the pooled test result is negative, this indicates that no individual is infected – and that no sample needs to be individually retested.

Emerson began using bundled testing on November 1 to reduce costs and be environmentally friendly. At the time, the college “was experiencing a relatively lower infection rate overall due to the current state of the pandemic.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 49 active cases “within the Emerson community,” according to the latest COVID update.

“The contact tracing process is working and we are contacting all those identified as close contacts, and from this post we are only aware of a single group of related cases, resulting from social interactions”, Erik Muurisepp, Emerson’s COVD manager, wrote in the update. “We remain pleased that there is not yet a confirmed classroom transmission to date.”

COVID vaccine recalls are required for all Emerson students, faculty and suppliers after winter break or as soon as they are eligible to receive vaccines, college recently announced. When people return to Emerson after winter break, they will need to get tested twice in the first week of their return.

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