Northeastern testing data signals increased COVID-19 spread


Samantha Barry

Cabot, once a facility where varsity, club and intramural sports could occur, has been the home of a massive testing operation this semester.

Avery Bleichfeld, managing editor

COVID-19 testing data released by Northeastern University indicated that Thursday, for the fourth day in a row, the university’s seven-day average positivity rate was the highest on record since testing began Aug. 17.

According to the data released Saturday, of the 5,524 people tested Thursday, 11 people tested positive. There is a two-day delay for the release of test results. This made the daily positivity rate 0.2% positive, the second highest since the university started testing for the coronavirus. The highest daily positivity rate recorded was calculated for Aug. 23, before most students returned to campus.

The seven-day positivity rate on Thursday, calculated by The Huntington News based on seven-day averages, was the highest recorded rate at 0.118%. The previous three days of results, those for Wednesday, Tuesday and Monday, also each broke the record for highest seven-day positivity rate. Prior to this week, the record seven-day positivity rate was 0.071%, on Sept. 28.

Compared to Boston at large, Northeastern’s testing results remain low. According to data released Wednesday by the Boston Public Health Commision, as of Monday, the seven-day positivity rate for the city of Boston was 6.7%. Data released Friday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said that the state’s seven-day average positivity rate was 2.11%.

In May, the World Health Organization described a seven-day positivity rate of 5% or lower, for a period of at least two weeks, as an indicator that the coronavirus is under control in a population. Based on this criterion, Northeastern’s testing indicates that the virus is controlled within the university population. However, the uptick in positivity signals higher spread than recorded since the university began testing in August, and comes as cases surge in Massachusetts, prompting new restrictions statewide.

Graphic by Avery Bleichfeld. Data from the Northeastern COVID-19 Testing Dashboard.