This Week in COVID-19: Tufts announces testing-out policy

COVID-19 cases have declined on the Medford/Somerville campus after reaching their all-time high two weeks ago. The university reported 12 new cases on Friday and 148 in the week before.

Still, the average number of positive COVID-19 cases on the Medford/Somerville campus has been relatively stagnant, going up around 14% over the past week. An average of 21 students per day tested positive in the week before Monday, similar to numbers recorded before the mid-February surge.

The university reported a total of eight individuals in isolation on Friday, down from the highest recorded isolation number of 424 on Jan. 24., despite the university’s recording 251 positive cases in the past week. Two thousand five hundred eighty-one COVID-19 cases have been reported on the Medford/Somerville campus since the start of the pandemic.

Tufts announced a new “testing-out” policy for COVID-19 positive students in isolation in an email to the Tufts community on Feb. 28. According to the policy, students must test negative on a rapid antigen test on either day five or day seven of isolation to leave quarantine. Those testing positive up until day 7 are required to remain in isolation until day 11. The policy applies to undergraduate and graduate students living on or off campus and to those isolating in The Mods, designated hotel rooms or off-campus residences. Rapid antigen testing for students isolating in The Mods and in hotel rooms will be performed as part of daily health checks by Brewster Ambulance Service.

Following a unanimous vote by the Medford Board of Health, the city’s indoor mask mandate was lifted on Feb. 16. The policy change comes as COVID-19 cases have starkly declined in the county and the state over the past month. Cases went down by around 5% in Middlesex County and around 26% in Massachusetts over the past week. More locally, Medford saw an almost 51% decrease in COVID-19 numbers in the week leading up to Feb. 26 while Somerville saw around a 32% decline in positive cases in the week before Mar. 1. Tufts’ booster mandate for all students and faculty members went into effect on Feb. 15. All community members who were eligible to receive a booster shot before Jan. 15 are now required to have uploaded proof of the additional vaccination or documentation of a valid medical or religious exemption to Tufts’ health portal. Students who do not meet this requirement will be considered noncompliant and addressed individually by the university, while staff who are noncompliant may be subject to unpaid leave, suspension or other disciplinary action.


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