Roughly 25,000 students are expected to be back on state college campuses as early as this month. The city of Boston is home to 100,000 college students, many living in off-campus housing. Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok is among those who says they are worried about the return of students, especially to the neighborhoods where lower income seniors reside. Bok recently sent a letter to Boston University and Northeastern University, urging them to switch to all remote learning this fall and to encourage students not to return. The councilor spoke with Joe Mathieu on WGBH's Morning Edition. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: You see, the population influx in September is Boston's biggest public health threat right now. On Twitter, you call it "a tidal wave we can see coming a mile off the coast."

Councilor Kenzie Bok: Yeah. I think we're a unique city in America. There are smaller college towns that have this kind of influx. But I don't think there's another large city that grows the population at a couple of weeks by 10 percent, like we do. And when you consider the public health situation nationwide right now and you combine that with this uptick here in Massachusetts, I just think it's incumbent upon us to avoid a really bad combination of factors.

Mathieu: It's [a] pretty menacing vision of the tidal wave here. You give credit, Councilor, to Berkeley and Simmons for going virtual. There are, of course, a lot of colleges here. Why target BU and Northeastern? Are they the two largest that you're most concerned about?

Bok: BU and Northeastern are the two largest and they both have 75 percent of their students coming from out of state. So I think right now the question is, How many students are we bringing back from outside of Boston, Massachusetts?

They're also in my district. But I think, you know, between the two of them, they are responsible for more than half the out-of-state students who would be coming back, more than half the off-campus students. And I represent a bunch of folks who are living in the neighborhoods where we have lots of off-campus students and who are really concerned.

Mathieu: You represent some of the neighborhoods that will be filling up, like Kenmore Square, like the Fenway area. Are you hearing from your constituents about this?

Bok: Absolutely. And I have a lot of seniors, vulnerable folks. I also represent Mission Hill, which is a huge number of student accommodations, and a lot of lower income seniors have already been hit hard by this virus.

As I've been looking at the schools plans, I think they put a ton of effort into them and their on-campus protocols are stronger. I think that we have a lot of reason to be concerned about off-campus. And normally that neighbor conflict is about late parties that keep people up and generate trash. But here we're kind of shifting from quality of life issues to life-and-death issues. And I think we have to really weigh the concerns there.

Mathieu: You're talking about people living in apartments in the neighborhood, right? You're not as concerned about on-campus residents.

Bok: Yeah, I think obviously in our city, everybody on-campus and off-campus, everybody circulates. And so from a population health perspective, you have to be concerned about growing the city population from all over right now. But, yes, it's particularly off-campus where we see a lot of crowding. I think that's going to be even more true this year, where the on-campus dorms are being de-densified.

But meanwhile, there's still the risk, and a lot of students in one apartment on Mission Hill and, you know, sharing one bathroom. If somebody has got to quarantine, there's not a clear way to make that happen. I think it's very concerning.

Mathieu: What do we do? You say there's still time. Should we have some sort of bubble on each campus? Should no students be coming back to Boston?

Bok: I think our schools have already laid the groundwork to do virtual learning. Both BU and Northeastern and most schools are planning a hybrid model. I think that you switch that to being all virtual, and then will there be exceptions? Students who are international, who are already here, maybe never left because they couldn't easily go home. Students who are homeless. Of course there are going to be exceptions and students who you should be accommodating.

But the real question right now, and I do think we're kind of in the final moments of making this decision, is how many students are you encouraging or actively encouraging to come back to the city right now? And I think if we switch to virtual learning, that'll decrease that number and help knock down that wave.

Mathieu: I know the mayor met with the heads of local colleges recently. He said that he would continue those conversations. Have you spoken with Mayor Walsh about this? Is there something the city can do, or is it really up to the colleges?

Bok: Well, I think at a government level, the person who would have to make a call would be the governor. The Department of Public Health at the state level is what regulates the universities. So I think that I and certainly the mayor are able to talk to the universities about their plans to ask them to adapt various things and to make suggestions, like I'm doing now about their overall model. But the call is ultimately up to the institutions or obviously to the governor as he thinks about our overall public health situation in the commonwealth.

Mathieu: Well, that might be a conversation that needs to happen, right? Will you reach out to the governor's office or are you hoping that the schools might police themselves?

Bok: I think it's incumbent upon everyone. I think the schools have a responsibility here to think about their students and our broader communities. I think it's incumbent on the governor to think as he considers all the factors about this unique situation we have in Boston now, where 34 percent of the students in the whole state are concentrated in Boston proper. And I think that's why it is stressful for us as a city not to be here.

Mathieu: Councilor, I know you're a diehard Red Sox fan. Would you go to a game if they decide later this season to allow people in the stadium?

Bok: I think that I'm going to be erring on the side of caution. As an example, in general, and I want to say I've been enjoying watching it on TV, but lately with our record, I haven't really been enjoying it.

Mathieu: It's been a little hard to watch. I don't know about the fake crowd noise. It's a little bit like canned laughter on a sitcom.

Bok: No, I'm not a big fan, either. The first night they haven't gotten the programing right. So there is a big cheer for a homerun on the other side. I'm happy to be seeing it, but still troubled by how long this is gonna make sense. I know folks at Fenway are doing everything they can. It's tough, too. It's really tough on our business community around the park right now.