College Testing

College and University Testing in Massachusetts – Part II

Well, I was a bit premature. Or, I missed the fact that Boston College’s positive tests were primarily occurring in the past several days. In any event, I’m updating the college tests results I posted two days ago with the latest figures, and I’m adding data on the most recent week of testing to more readily spot trends across the schools.

Table 1 shows the cumulative test results for twelve local colleges, plus UMass Amherst. I dropped UMass Boston from the table because it is doing extremely limited testing (under 400 tests to date), and provides little information. I added UMass Amherst in its place, primarily because of its size and importance in the state University system. Little has changed in these data from two days ago, other than that the positivity rate from BC is up a bit, reflecting the most recent spate of positive cases.

Table 1: Greater Boston Area College Covid Testing
Cumulative Testing Results
September 12,2020
  Results As Of Total Positive Positive
College/University Date Date Tests Tests Rate %
Babson 5-Aug 8-Sep 8,478 4 0.05%
Bentley 17-Aug 9-Sep 8,640 1 0.01%
Boston College 16-Aug 11-Sep 25,804 104 0.40%
Boston University 27-Jul 11-Sep 92,774 89 0.10%
Brandeis 12-Aug 11-Sep 20,103 6 0.03%
Emerson 6-Aug 9-Sep 11,180 11 0.10%
Harvard  1-Jun 11-Sep 39,331 36 0.09%
MIT 16-Aug 12-Sep 44,631 22 0.05%
Northeastern 17-Aug 10-Sep 83,620 48 0.06%
Suffolk 18-Sep 10-Sep 5,357 8 0.15%
Tufts 3-Aug 10-Sep 29,661 25 0.08%
UMass Amherst 6-Aug 11-Sep 35,384 14 0.04%
Wellesley 16-Aug 10-Sep 8,193 1 0.01%
Total     413,156 369 0.09%


Table 2 shows the results for the most recent week of testing, with the exception of BU, which is for the most recent day published. I’ve converted all the numbers to daily averages to make them comparable across schools. Here, the cluster of cases at Boston College more readily stands out, with a 7 day test postivity rate above 2% – higher than the statewide 0.8% average. None of the other colleges show any increase in positivity rates, and the aggregate rate remains extremely low.

Table 2: Greater Boston Area College Covid Testing
Latest Weekly Results
September 12,2020
  As Of Daily Positive Positive Test
College/University Date Tests Tests Percent
Babson 8-Sep 277 0 0.00%
Bentley 9-Sep 457 0 0.00%
Boston College 11-Sep 422 10 2.27%
Boston University 11-Sep 5,409 2 0.04%
Brandeis 11-Sep 611 0 0.00%
Emerson 9-Sep 463 0 0.03%
Harvard  11-Sep 1,415 1 0.08%
MIT 12-Sep 1,956 1 0.04%
Northeastern 10-Sep 5,874 4 0.06%
Suffolk 10-Sep 451 1 0.16%
Tufts 10-Sep 1,636 1 0.09%
UMass Amherst 11-Sep 1,456 0 0.01%
Wellesley 11-Sep 458 0 0.00%
Total   20,886 20 0.09%


Are all the test results for the schools being reported to the state and included in the state dashboard figures? It is difficult to tell. Over the past seven days, the state has reported slightly more than 44,000 tests per day on average.  If all the results in Table 2 were reported to the state, this implies that these thirteen colleges account for almost half the reported testing statewide. They probably do account for the bulk of the college testing in Massachusetts (I believe that the remaining colleges are either doing limited testing or are relatively small).

However, for the week ending August 15th before most of these college testing programs had begun to ramp up , the Commonwealth reported about 24,000 tests per day, of which 7,500 were for repeat testers.   This would mean that almost all the testing increase since mid-August has come from these colleges (or testing for the non-college-affliated population has dropped off).  This isn’t likely, but it seems highly likely that many of the colleges on the list are reporting to the state.  If so, they are partly driving the increasing testing totals and decreasing positivity rates among repeat testers.

3 replies on “College and University Testing in Massachusetts – Part II”

It is very reassuring to see these extremely low positivity rates on campus! (except BC as the outlier) On the other hand, if they are reporting to the state, these numbers are lowering the state positivity rate in a way that makes me wonder what’s happening in the communities at large. Some of the daily state test numbers are below 20,000 so if these big Boston schools are included, the state has decreased the general testing I think. And, the community rates in Boston may not be as rosy as they seem. My zip code, for instance (02122) is at 2.9% – definitely not rosy. But Allston/Brighton and Fenway have relatively low rates; is this the student influence?

I wonder if the college testing numbers, if included with the community/state stats, will offset the likely drops in the end of the “Stop the Spread” free testing program. I believe it ended yesterday.

While it was targeted to the high-risk communities, it was open to all. So that testing will dwindle.

Yes, my guess is that most of these college test results are being reported to the state, and if the ‘Stop the Spread’ campaign ends there might be a compensating effect from the college testing. So we might not see the decrease in community testing in the reported numbers. I haven’t really taken a hard look at the Wednesday reports with town-by-town data, but plan to, as I’m interested in seeing what’s happened to the age distribution of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and that is now the only place that is reported. So, we might see something in that data from changes in ‘Stop the Spread’, or other changes in community testing.

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