BC Walks Back COVID-19 Plan, Announces Stricter Protocols and Increased Testing

Boston College has updated its COVID-19 residential guidelines to further limit the number of guests allowed in dorm rooms on campus. In an email sent to the community on Wednesday, Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead and Director of University Health Services Dr. Douglas Comeau communicated new restrictions.

Students living in traditional style housing—singles, doubles, triples, and quads—will be allowed one guest in the room at a time, while students living in suites and apartments will be allowed a maximum of two guests. The previous policy permitted one guest per resident of each room. The university now encourages students to maintain mask-wearing and social distancing at all times in suite common areas, even without guests present.

Students are also asked to refrain from traveling during Indigenous Peoples' weekend.

In the email, the university officially announced an increase in the number of tests being run per week, between 6,000 and 8,000. Last week, there were a reported 40 positive cases out of 8,359 tests run. BC has been testing its students less frequently than other Boston universities.

Boston College has faced criticism from students, experts, and local community members regarding their COVID-19 testing protocols. The updated policies come after public outcry denouncing the university’s handling of its reopening strategy. This weekend, Newton City Councilor Alicia Bowman voiced criticism after the BC Football team was videotaped dancing and chanting in close proximity to one another without masks following the team’s victory over Texas State. Earlier this month, the Boston Globe reported a cluster of cases within BC’s swimming and diving program.

Following a spike in campus case numbers during the week of September 7, the State of Massachusetts announced that it would be taking over contact tracing duties at BC.

The latest policy updates represent another shift in the university’s COVID-19 protocols. With 170 positive tests among undergraduates since testing began in mid-August, administration officials have begun to revise their original plan in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19 and poor publicity among the local community.

In an interview with WBUR on September 14, University Spokesman Jack Dunn called Young Democratic Socialists of Boston College, a student-run organization that took to social media to call for increased testing, “a bad group on campus.”

“Our focus is on Boston College and what works well for us, and we think we have an excellent plan in place,” said Dunn, in the same interview.

After weeks of outcry from student groups and local officials, Wednesday’s updated guidelines signal a significant departure from the university’s original strategy to keep the BC community safe.

“It doesn’t seem like the administration really knows what’s going on,” said Katie Ovoian, MCAS ‘22. “We’ve got a lot of contradicting information. I wish they had more transparency.”

In the email’s closing, Lochhead and Comeau expressed their optimism about the fall semester and noted that students seem happy to be on campus.

“We will continue to be nimble in our response to COVID-19 and will always work to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors.”

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