Preparing for tomorrow's COVID policy changes

March 13, 2022

Key Points

  • Adjusted COVID policies go into effect tomorrow, March 14.
  • The vaccination mandate and isolation policies remain the same; updates to the testing and masking policies will take effect.
  • Though masking will be voluntary, wearing a high-quality mask is still the best way to protect yourself and others, second only to vaccination.
  • Please respect each others’ choice to wear or not wear a mask.
  • Anyone feeling cold or flu-like symptoms must attest to their symptoms and test ASAP.
  • Learn more about the rationale and timing of the changes by watching this presentation (or click here for a transcription).
     

Dear students,

We hope you had the opportunity to read carefully the March 7 email about the easing of some COVID policies tomorrow, March 14. Many community members are eagerly awaiting these changes, while others have questioned the timing of the changes because they are concerned about their health or the health of someone they care about.

We understand and appreciate these different perspectives and want you to know that much care and thought has gone into decisions to ease certain policies, keeping the community’s overall wellbeing in mind. The course of the pandemic is changing at MIT, in Massachusetts, and around the world, and our response to managing the pandemic is changing as it has when appropriate over the last two years. Our updated approaches to testing, masking, access, and compliance are all informed by research, vaccine and therapeutic availability, CDC guidance, and advances in understanding how COVID can be managed effectively. This presentation by Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz, Emergency Management Director Suzanne Blake, and Professor Peko Hosoi provides details about the plan and context for the changes (you can also review just the slides or see a transcribed recording of the presentation).

We are not doing away with COVID protections. MIT has a very high vaccination and booster rate, and new community members will be required to fulfill the vaccination requirement. Testing remains available to those who want or need it, you must attest if you have symptoms, and high-quality masks will continue to be made available – in fact, masks remain one of the best tools we have for protecting ourselves and others from contracting COVID as explained in this December 2, 2021 article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And if a student tests positive, they (and any roommates they have) will be cared for in keeping with our well-established isolation and support procedures.

As Professor Hosoi said in the presentation, at this phase of the pandemic, testing as soon as you feel the onset of COVID-like symptoms is critical for mitigating spread. If you start feeling cold or flu-like symptoms, you must attest to them through COVID Pass and test as soon as possible. The testing protocols are changing from scheduled surveillance testing to on-demand testing, which means that you have to be especially mindful of your health and take cold or flu-like symptoms seriously. If you start to feel such symptoms, you must attest to them and take proactive measures to prevent possible spread to others. Start masking immediately as a precaution, take a rapid antigen test if available, and then drop off a PCR test at the earliest possible opportunity. If your PCR or rapid antigen test comes back positive for COVID, complete MIT Medical’s case information form and follow the instructions emailed to you. It’s a good idea to fill out the COVID support form as well if you or your roommate test positive to get additional guidance on next steps.

Student life policy updates. Guidance on events, food service, and guests in residence halls will also be eased. Please check the undergraduate and graduate COVID policy pages tomorrow for details.

Most importantly, as we settle into these changes, we ask that you respect each other’s choices about masks – regardless of whether you choose to wear a mask or choose not to wear one, be kind and understanding with people who make a choice different from yours. A high-quality mask is still the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID, second only to vaccination. Students who want to request accommodations related to these policy changes or who would like to discuss their individual medical situation should reach out to MIT Medical or Disability and Access Services.

As we move to a new phase in our approach to managing COVID, we are mindful that many colleges, universities, and local school systems have successfully adopted similar strategies already. Likewise, MIT has dealt with changes to pandemic conditions over the last two years by dialing restrictions up and down as needed. We will stay alert to changes and take appropriate action. For the most up-to-date information about COVID policies, please see http://now.mit.edu/.

Sincerely,

Suzy M. Nelson
Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life

Cecilia Stuopis, MD
Medical Director, MIT Medical