Pod pause and public health updates

March 05, 2021

Dear students,

We are writing to follow up on our message from Monday.

A short while ago, the heads of house for Baker, New Vassar, and Maseeh wrote to their respective communities letting them know that their pod programs are reinstated. They also explained more about the facts of this situation, and we think it is important for all undergraduates to have this information for two reasons:

  1. This pause was effective in managing an outbreak. To be clear, pod pauses are a public health measure and are not intended to be punitive. A temporary pause is one lever we can pull to help get ahead of the spread of the virus and to avoid more campus-wide restrictions.
  2. We need to remain vigilant. This experience showed us how policy violations lead to a rapid increase in positive cases, close contacts, and quarantine requirements.
     

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On Sunday, February 28, we learned of unauthorized gatherings that took place earlier in the weekend. We responded by swiftly pausing the pod programs in three houses to give MIT Medical contact tracers the time they needed to talk to more than 50 students involved in or impacted by the unauthorized gatherings. We did so to reduce the risk that the virus would spread in the residences.

We appreciate that so many students were forthcoming with MIT Medical. Their actions helped us to eventually identify more than 20 close contacts across MIT. We have seen a number of positive cases as a result of the gatherings, and each of these students, who is now in isolation or quarantine, is receiving the support they need.

Typically it takes 5-7 days from the time of exposure to detect the virus through testing. We lifted the pause today because we are now more confident that we won’t see more positive cases tied to the weekend activities outside of those already in quarantine.

This situation demonstrates the exponential consequences of unsafe and unauthorized social activities during the pandemic: We understand that everyone is frustrated by the constraints brought on by the pandemic, but the fact remains that COVID-19 is a daily reality for everyone. In fact, more contagious variants are now circulating in Massachusetts, which makes the virus more unpredictable.

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Please don’t host or attend unauthorized on- or off-campus gatherings; they violate MIT COVID-19 policies and, more importantly, put too many people at risk. Remember to wear well-fitting face-coverings (see these CDC guidelines for improving how your mask protects you), wash your hands regularly, and stay six feet apart from one another. Test according to Covid Pass requirements, attest as directed, follow the pod agreement, and be forthright about symptoms or contacts with people who have COVID-19 (the amnesty policy applies to students who share COVID-related information and information shared with MIT Medical and contact tracers is confidential).

If we all take these precautions, a safe and successful spring semester will be possible.

Sincerely, 
Suzy and Cecilia

Suzy M. Nelson, Vice President and Dean for Student Life
Cecilia Stuopis, Medical Director, MIT Medical