BUHealth: UK/South African COVID strains are at BU; BU testing looks great; BU plans in-person commencement!

I greatly enjoyed reading about how BU is using its extensive research laboratory resources to test for the presence of the UK and South African variants at BU. This report includes the 70 cases of COVID-19 detected in members of the BU faculty, staff and students during the week of Feb 17-23. Below are a few selected quotes.

Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: February 17 to 23

BU has begun sequencing COVID samples for variants; two variants that first emerged in South Africa, UK already detected at BU

Of the positive tests sent to the NEIDL for sequencing since January 25, more than 130 samples have contained enough viral material to allow them to be sequenced.

… thus far, we have detected eight samples containing a COVID variant of concern. Specifically, we have detected two variants of concern: one case of the B.1.351, first detected in South Africa, and seven cases of the B.1.1.7, first detected in the UK. We were not surprised by these results—they confirm what we already suspected, that those two variants have reached our community. “

 

It was informative to me to learn that BU is not able or allowed to tell people which variant they have if infected.

“For regulatory reasons, BU is not permitted to tell individuals if they have a variant form of COVID-19. The scientists who are doing this study are not even aware of which person the samples they are sequencing came from; they just know the virus sample was collected from someone at BU. “

even if we could tell individuals that they had been infected with a COVID-19 variant, that knowledge wouldn’t change our clinical management of that person’s illness.”

 I am fortunate to be part of BU’s comprehensive testing. It is available daily on the COVID-19 dashboard, with testing results as of two days ago.

I only wish that more people had such excellent testing available. I have not seen any recent estimates of the cost to BU of doing these COVID tests, but an early guess was $12 per test. I think a lot of people would be willing to pay $12 (weekly) or $25 (biweekly) for careful testing, which is the cost per faculty member or undergraduate of BU’s testing program. BU is continuing its hybrid teaching, with students in many classes allowed to choose between in-class and remote zooming.

 Based on these low current testing and vaccination efforts at BU, BU announced this week that it will be holding in-person graduation ceremonies on May 16 (graduates only) as long as the city and state allow it. Link is here and below. Go BU!

In-Person Commencement for BU Class of 2021 Planned for May 16, unless City Requires Virtual Ceremony

Class of 2020 will gather October 2 for virus-delayed ceremony: both will be for graduates only

 

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