Update on indoor masking and reminders for the holiday weekend

October 07, 2021

TLDR: Campus case numbers are low, so keep doing what you're doing; Pandemic conditions persist, however, and precautions will stay in place; Avoid the rise in cases caused by events and weather changes this time last year; Protect yourself this long weekend; Register travel if you're leaving New England; Thanks for doing your part!

Dear students,

We hope that you have settled into the rhythms of this fall semester. As we look ahead to a welcomed long weekend, we are writing to share some updates and reminders.

After reviewing current pandemic conditions and considering other risk factors, we are keeping Covid protections announced on August 27 in place for the time being, including the indoor face-covering requirement.

We still live under pandemic conditions

The City of Cambridge implemented an indoor mask requirement on September 3 that remains in force today, and community transmission levels across Massachusetts are still classified as “high” by the CDC. We are also moving into a period when there are several long weekends and major social events including the Head of the Charles Regatta and Halloween. As the weather cools, students will spend more time inside. And we are also on the cusp of flu season. Last year at this time we saw case numbers rise sharply and stay high through November and December. We want to avoid having this happening again if at all possible.

In August, we said, “The requirements may be modified if compliance is strong and conditions improve. They may also be extended if necessary.” We gave considerable thought to relaxing the face-covering policy in residence halls in particular. The general consensus from public health experts and federal and state health agencies, however, is that it’s not the right time to ease Covid protection measures. We have also heard from students and heads of house who say that face-coverings give them peace of mind when interacting with other residents within their living communities.

Sustaining our mission in changing conditions

We know this news may be frustrating — it’s frustrating for staff and faculty on campus as well. Some have said that the administration “keeps moving the goalposts” on relaxing Covid protections. While we understand this perception, we are doing our best to manage the pandemic, which is not easy or predictable for any of us. We are in a constant state of evaluation and assessment to manage an outbreak of Covid that could disrupt MIT’s in-person academic offerings and educational mission.

There is good news

Our approach is working, and this is good news. Our campus case numbers remain low in large part thanks to your diligence and commitment to protecting yourself and each other.

In August, we also pledged to “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 work continues, and we meet regularly with student leaders on Covid-related issues and practices. Student leaders have suggested we administer a “pulse climate survey” to learn more about how students are faring with current policies and to better understand your experiences so far this fall. The results will inform discussions with student leaders and policy adaptations as appropriate.

Staying safe this long weekend

This Monday, October 11, is Indigenous Peoples Day and the 125th running of the Boston Marathon, the first since April 2019 (click here to read more information from the Boston Police).

Whether you are going to relax, connect with friends, or check out the marathon festivities, please follow Covid prevention measures — masking, testing as required, and attesting daily. Be mindful of your environment, too; you are at higher risk of infection if you attend lengthy gatherings with people you don’t normally spend time with, or if you are unmasked, around a table, and in more crowded indoor spaces. The cases MIT Medical sees now are typically the result of indoor gatherings in settings where people got overly comfortable and neglected to protect themselves from Covid.

Registering travel and staying safe on the road

If you plan to travel, please make sure to review and follow MIT’s Covid Travel Policy and the Campus Re-entry Policy if your trip will take you outside Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, or Rhode Island. Travelers on official MIT business are required to register their trips at travel.mit.edu. Registering personal travel is recommended. Wherever you go, make sure to observe your destination’s Covid policies as well.

Enjoy this much-needed break! Take good care of yourself, and please keep doing your part to protect MIT from Covid.

Best,

Cecilia Stuopis, MD
Medical Director, MIT Medical

Suzy Nelson
Vice Chancellor & Dean for Student Life