Boston University faculty protest reopening plan

BOSTON (AP) — Members of Boston University's faculty are raising concerns about the school's plan to reopen the campus this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Faculty held a drive-by rally Thursday calling on the school to provide employees the option to work from home and provide free personal protective equipment to all faculty, staff and students. They are also demanding free COVID-19 testing for residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the university.

“Concerns about the implementation of health and safety measures are widespread among faculty, staff, and students,” Senior Lecturer Jason Prentice said in an emailed statement. “To all of us — and the surrounding community, to which we also belong — BU has a moral responsibility to prioritize health and safety.”

A BU spokesperson said it is confident in its safety plans, which include a testing program for faculty staff and students, physical distancing and contact tracing.

“We look forward to implementing them along with faculty, staff and students this fall,” Colin Riley said in an email. “As you can see, a lot of careful thought, extraordinary effort and thorough planning has gone into this.”

Massachusetts reported 21 newly confirmed deaths linked to COVID-19 on Thursday -- bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths to 8,790 since the start of the pandemic.

The state also on Thursday reported 319 newly confirmed cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

That brings the total number of confirmed and probable cases to more than 122,600 in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

There were 401 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of COVID-19, while 61 were in intensive care units.