Newton and Boston are taking over Covid-19 tracking and followup of positive cases from Boston College now that the school has become the first in the Boston area to develop a Covid-19 outbreak, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said tonight.
In an e-mail to Newton residents, Fuller said she is "gravely concerned" about what's going on at BC, which has reported 67 positive cases among students this week, and 104 since it opened for the fall semester last month.
Fuller said she and public-health officials from Newton, Boston and the state held an emergency meeting with BC officials today.
Fuller said the college needs to dramatically increase its testing - BC's original plan called for just random testing of students, unlike schools such as BU and Northeastern, which require all students to get tested every few days. She said BC agreed to turn over followup of positive cases to Newton and Boston public-health officials, whom she said are better prepared to handle a large outbreak and to do the contact tracing required to try to tamp it down.
One thing Fuller said Boston College better not think of doing, however, is trying to rent space in Newton to house any students who test positive or who are awaiting results of tests after coming into close contact with people who have tested positive - Newton is not willing to risk its residents' health because of BC's inability to ensure enough space for an outbreak.
She said the school is close to running out of space in its designated quarantine area - an old motel off Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton - and has been exploring renting additional space in Newton, Brookline, Dover and Cohasset. An alternative, she said, would be for BC to send many of its students home for remote learning - after they figure out how to do so without risking sending infected students home.
Boston College must take swift, decisive and effective action now to contain the spread of this serious infectious disease. The data on the spike in positive Boston College cases demonstrates viral transmission. They must act now to protect the health of their BC community and all our Newtonians. They must act now so Newton's low positivity rate does not rise. Boston College must act now to ensure that their operations do not threaten our ability to being to reopne Newton schools in-person, to get our residents back to work, and our restaurants, retailers and other businesses back on their feet.
We have learned COVID-19 moves quickly and we have to move even quicker to stay ahead of it.