Requiring employees to be vaccinated, and other updates

June 01, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

We write to inform you of an important development: We have decided that all MIT faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by July 30, 2021, in order to work on campus. Certain contractors and others working on campus, or accessing MIT facilities in Cambridge, must also be vaccinated. For staff represented by a union, MIT's labor relations team will continue discussions with union leadership about this requirement.

Exemptions to this requirement may be granted for medical or religious reasons, or for staff who are approved to work remotely full-time.

Just as with our vaccine requirement for enrolled students, we are taking this step in keeping with the vision for a safe return to full operations that President Reif outlined in March. Below, we explain more about how the requirement will be implemented, as well as our approach to testing for Covid-19 at the beginning of the fall. We also offer other key updates about what to expect this fall as MIT prepares to fully emerge from the pandemic’s long shadow.

Vaccine requirement

A few weeks ago, we wrote that we were considering implementing a vaccine requirement for employees and others. We ultimately decided to move forward with such a requirement based on our understanding of the science behind the vaccines, their established safety and efficacy, and their wide availability across the state and country.

We will accept all vaccines that have received either Emergency Use Authorization or final approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as those vaccines with an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization. Proof of your vaccination must be submitted using Covid Vaccine in the Atlas mobile app or at covidvaccine.mit.edu. Access to this information will be limited, as provided in the Covid Pass privacy statement. MIT feels that it is necessary to have this information in order to monitor the level of vaccination in our community and to take measures to mitigate or respond to any outbreaks.

Beginning today, Covid-19 vaccination is required for community members seeking to participate in MIT-sponsored international or domestic travel, unless the traveler has an approved medical or religious exemption.

Our vaccine requirements will strengthen our collective protection against the virus and its variants, and increase our community’s comfort with a return to full operations. And it will better position us to ease many of MIT's Covid-era restrictions and limitations – so that together, we can continue to fulfill the Institute’s academic and research mission, and restore vibrant life and activity to our campus.

A preview of fall policies

While 21% of MIT community members expected to be on campus in the fall have not yet reported their vaccine status, 91% of those who are accessing campus right now have indicated they are already fully or partially vaccinated. As our vaccine requirements take effect, we can begin to focus on adjusting our Covid-era policies. And as more members of our community become protected against the virus, we will be in a position to relax many of the restrictions that have defined campus for over a year.

While many decisions still need to be made, here is a preview of what to expect in four key areas:

Testing in the fall

To gain an early understanding of our community’s health, MIT will initially require any community member accessing campus buildings to receive a Covid test once per week. MIT Medical is developing an unobserved, self-administered testing system for the fall so the process will be quick and easy to integrate into our routines.

We will regularly evaluate whether it is necessary to continue widespread community testing throughout the fall. If public health data indicate that testing is no longer needed, we will stop. And we will always be prepared to ramp up our testing if we see an uptick in virus prevalence in our community or in the surrounding communities.

Individuals who work on campus and are exempt from the vaccine requirements for medical or religious reasons may be required to comply with additional requirements, including more frequent testing and mask wearing.

Return to work and Work Succeeding

Faculty and staff who worked on campus before the pandemic, and who have not yet returned to campus, have been told to plan for resuming in-person work by September 7, 2021. More information about what “in-person work” will look like will be shared by local managers in the coming weeks, but faculty and staff should be in the area and prepared for in-person teaching, meetings, and other types of work by that date, as required by individual units.

At the same time, the Work Succeeding effort to define new ways of working is well underway. This initiative is creating guidelines and policies to support working together more flexibly and effectively. You can expect more information about this work in the coming weeks.

Campus access, visitors, and events in the fall

In addition to the fall marking the return of in-person work and learning, we expect the campus to open up again to the MIT community. Buildings will be easier to access than they were during the pandemic for community members who are in compliance with our vaccine and testing requirements. Covid-era capacity limits will be lifted in classrooms, offices, and other campus spaces. And going forward, we envision systems and measures to allow us to safely welcome guests and visitors in residence halls, on admissions tours, and at campus events, meetings, workshops, and sporting competitions. We do not know yet whether additional visiting appointments such as visiting students and scholars will remain paused for fall as we increase the population of our own community on campus.

We are also working to make selected areas of the campus open to the public again.

Responding to state and municipal plans to lift Covid-19 restrictions

In light of the ongoing success of state and city vaccination efforts, as well as new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts and Cambridge officials have rescinded their remaining Covid policies, effective May 29, 2021. While MIT has the latitude to set its own Covid rules, we would like to be in step with the state and city – but we still need to allow members of our community a little more time to get vaccinated. In the coming weeks, we anticipate relaxing our remaining policies, including permitting individuals who are fully vaccinated to go without their face coverings on campus. However, members of the community who prefer to wear masks in certain settings will be encouraged and welcome to do so.

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We will be hosting two community town halls – one for faculty, staff, and postdocs, and one for students – later this month to help answer your questions about the vaccine requirements and other aspects of our summer and fall planning. Watch for invitations in the coming days, and stay updated by regularly checking MIT Now, or watching your inbox for the MIT Forward, for the latest policies, FAQs, and more.

The past 15 months have seen our community come together to contend with the losses, sacrifices, fears, and 24/7 demands of a global pandemic. Fortunately it’s now time to set our collective sights on a hopeful future, and to look forward to the fall and a safe return to full operations.

Sincerely,

Ramona Allen, Vice President for Human Resources

Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor

Martin A. Schmidt, Provost

Glen Shor, Executive Vice President and Treasurer

Cecilia Stuopis, MD, Medical Director, MIT Medical

Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education; Chair, Vaccine Planning Team

Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research