Important updates on testing, face-coverings, and fall policies, and a video on Covid prevention measures

August 27, 2021
Suzy M. Nelson, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life | Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education | Cecilia Stuopis, Medical Director, MIT Medical |

TL;DR: MIT is reopening fully; Video explains science behind policies on vaccination, self-testing, attesting, face-coverings; Precautions make classes, residence and FSILG events, athletics, activities, groups, and more possible; Guest, visitor, events, and food and dining policies updated.

Dear students,

Covid-19 will be part of our lives for a while. We know that pandemic policies and restrictions can be frustrating and that everyone wants it all to be over. We feel exactly the same way.

That said, Covid-19’s Delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original virus. Unvaccinated people are at high risk of severe illness, but vaccinated people can also spread Delta and get sick.

As we learn how to live with Covid, MIT is reopening fully as President Reif announced on March 12. To fulfill his pledge, we are stepping up efforts to protect ourselves and each other even as the CDC places Suffolk and Middlesex counties at high risk for community transmission. In addition to the vaccination requirement, we implemented the following policies for all students and all residents of MIT-approved housing:

  • A well-fitting face-covering is required indoors--whether you are fully vaccinated or unvaccinated--unless you are alone or with your roommate(s) in your room or suite. Unvaccinated persons must wear a face-covering outdoors if they can’t stay at least three feet apart from others (read the policy and this guide on navigating the new normal with roommates).
  • All students and campus residents must test twice a week using the new unobserved self-tests (see details below) or in-person at the trailer outside MIT Medical.
  • All students and campus residents must also attest to their wellbeing daily using the Atlas Mobile app or online at
  • Take particular precautions when eating indoors (read the policy).
  • Socialize and meet with friends outside as much as possible.

Important: Fulfilling the vaccination requirement and testing and attesting as directed are requirements for registration and maintaining access to campus facilities.

We will revisit these requirements in late September, including the review of face-coverings in residential settings--we know this issue is particularly important to students. The requirements may be modified if compliance is strong and conditions improve. They may also be extended if necessary. We will also work with student leaders to develop common-sense approaches to mitigate risks associated with the spread of Covid and to help students socialize safely.

This brief video by Vice Chancellor Waitz and Professor Peko Hosoi explains the science behind these decisions. Please watch it and read this MIT News 3Q with Professor Hosoi--community members told us that the information helped them better appreciate the present risks and understand the need for safeguards.

While we expect nearly 98% of MIT community members on campus this fall to be fully vaccinated, a significant number will not be fully vaccinated when they arrive because they faced barriers to vaccination in their countries of origin. Even if they get the one-shot vaccine the day they arrive, they will not have sufficient antibodies in their system for at least 14 days.

Each of us needs to do our part

We must work together to keep the number of community members who become sick as small as possible. If you are vaccinated and contract the virus, the vaccine can help prevent serious illness if you become symptomatic. But, you will still be sidelined with Covid for about two weeks. Unvaccinated persons are at a higher risk for more serious illness.

Our community is also broad and diverse: children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated live among us. Some community members are immunocompromised or have other underlying health conditions that increase their Covid risks. Thousands of on-campus employees test, attest, and wear face-coverings to protect you, their loved ones, and themselves from infection.

What MIT policies will enable you to do

  • Attend your classes in person.
  • Work in your lab (so long as it’s OK with your supervisor).
  • Skip mandatory arrival quarantine periods and Q-Week, even if you arrive from outside the US.
  • Hold and attend events and parties (read the policy: UG | Grad).
  • Interact with more friends indoors and outdoors (read the policy: UG | Grad).
  • Welcome family and non-MIT friends to campus (read the policy).

We will have orientation for new undergraduates and graduate students, the S’More Welcome program for sophomores, Residential Exploration, FSILG recruitment, athletics, many student activities, and more.

Self-test kits available now

To make testing easier, MIT Medical introduced unobserved self-testing. After testing in-person on arrival, you can meet your twice-weekly testing requirement with self-tests as prompted by Covid Pass. Download the Atlas Mobile app, pick up a kit at one of the locations listed in the Atlas Mobile, do the test in private (such as in your room or alone in a bathroom), and deposit it into one of several drop-off boxes (check Atlas Mobile for locations). You can still test in person to meet the requirement if you prefer.

Prepare for ongoing change

To quote President Reif again, “We feel confident about this basic framework--while recognizing, with humility, that there is a great deal we do not and cannot know yet.” If you want to share thoughts and get updates on policies, please join Student Life Conversations on select Fridays this fall. With patience, flexibility, and, vitally, your willingness to do your part, this fall we can protect each other and ourselves from the virus, potentially relax some restrictions early in the semester, and enjoy an MIT that feels more like MIT.

We can’t wait to see you back on campus.

Best regards,

Suzy Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life

Ian Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education

Cecilia Stuopis, MD
Medical Director, MIT Medical