Assessment of a COVID-19 Control Plan on an Urban University Campus During a Second Wave of the Pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted US educational institutions. Given potential adverse financial and psychosocial effects of campus closures, many institutions developed strategies to reopen campuses in the fall 2020 semester despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19. However, many institutions opted to have limited campus reopening to minimize potential risk of spread of SARS-CoV-2.

To analyze how Boston University (BU) fully reopened its campus in the fall of 2020 and controlled COVID-19 transmission despite worsening transmission in Boston, Massachusetts.

Between August and December 2020, BU conducted more than 500 000 COVID-19 tests and identified 719 individuals with COVID-19, including 496 students (69.0%), 11 faculty (1.5%), and 212 staff (29.5%). Overall, 718 individuals, or 1.8% of the BU community, had test results positive for SARS-CoV-2. Of 837 close contacts traced, 86 individuals (10.3%) had test results positive for COVID-19. BU contact tracers identified a source of transmission for 370 individuals (51.5%), with 206 individuals (55.7%) identifying a non-BU source. Among 5 faculty and 84 staff with SARS-CoV-2 with a known source of infection, most reported a transmission source outside of BU (all 5 faculty members [100%] and 67 staff members [79.8%]). A BU source was identified by 108 of 183 undergraduate students with SARS-CoV-2 (59.0%) and 39 of 98 graduate students with SARS-CoV-2 (39.8%); notably, no transmission was traced to a classroom setting.

In this case series of COVID-19 transmission, BU used a coordinated strategy of testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine, with robust management and oversight, to control COVID-19 transmission in an urban university setting.

This multifaceted intervention case series was conducted at a large urban university campus in Boston, Massachusetts, during the fall 2020 semester. The BU response included a high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction testing facility with capacity to deliver results in less than 24 hours; routine asymptomatic screening for COVID-19; daily health attestations; adherence monitoring and feedback; robust contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation in on-campus facilities; face mask use; enhanced hand hygiene; social distancing recommendations; dedensification of classrooms and public places; and enhancement of all building air systems. Data were analyzed from December 20, 2020, to January 31, 2021.

SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction of anterior nares specimens and sources of transmission, as determined through contact tracing.

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