Tufts student being tested for COVID-19, 3 positives in Somerville, Medford

A street and houses in Somerville are pictured on March 27, 2018. Asha Iyer / The Tufts Daily Archives

The university tested a student for COVID-19 on the advice of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), Executive Vice President Mike Howard announced in a community-wide email yesterday afternoon.

The test results were unknown at press time, but Howard reaffirmed that the university will make an announcement if a community member tests positive. The email added that the university remains in close contact with public health officials and that the student is receiving care.

The student had recently returned from abroad and a number of individuals with close contact with the student have been asked to self-isolate as they await the results of the test, the Daily has learned.

Just hours after the university made its announcement, the City of Somerville informed residents that two residents have also been declared presumptive positives for the virus by DPH.

Both cases are linked to a strategy meeting that occurred at the Cambridge-based biotechnology firm Biogen in late February, the city said in a statement.

Seventy-seven of the 95 cases that have been confirmed in Massachusetts are linked to Biogen, state health officials confirmed on Wednesday.

One of the presumptive positives was the spouse of a West Somerville Neighborhood School teacher, as well as a parent of a student at the same school which is on Powerhouse Boulevard, a short walk from Tufts’ campus.

All three members of the family are being quarantined and the school underwent deep cleaning yesterday evening, the statement said. The school will also be closed today.

Meanwhile, the City of Medford announced on Tuesday the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in the city as the number of cases nationwide mounts.

The city received confirmation of the positive test from the DPH, but the test must still be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be verified.

“We are sharing this information with the public in the interest of transparency, not to raise alarm,” Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said in a statement. “I understand everyone’s deep concern surrounding this issue and am committed to sharing whatever information we can with the public as we get it.”

Despite the presumptive positive test, the statement said that schools would remain open and community events would go ahead as scheduled, as the situation remained “low-risk.”

The statement said officials determined with “a high degree of certainty” that the person contracted the virus at an event to which other cases have been traced.

MaryAnn O’Connor, the director of Medford’s Health Department, told the Daily in an interview Wednesday morning that she could not confirm whether or not the case was linked to the Biogen meeting, citing privacy concerns.

O’Connor said that the person is currently under quarantine at their home and “doing well.”

Additionally, the individual was not a case of community spread and had little contact with others meaning that no one else is currently being quarantined because of the presumed positive case, according to O’Connor.

News of the presumptive positive case came just four days after the city had announced that two Medford Public Schools educators were undergoing self-isolation following travel to a heavily affected country.

O’Connor confirmed that the two educators had not shown symptoms of the coronavirus and were cleared. They are both back teaching.

 


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