Keeping our guard up as the semester begins
September 10, 2021
To the members of the MIT community,
With the semester underway and employees returning to work in larger numbers, I want to take a moment to update you on where we stand with respect to vaccinations, rates of Covid-19 on campus, and the preventative measures we are taking now and plan to take going forward.
To start, I want to thank everyone for their continued vigilance. Thus far, we have kept the number of positive Covid cases on campus at about 0.09 percent, and the newly arrived and returning members of our community who were unable to receive vaccines in their home countries are getting their immunizations. We project that we will have more than 98 percent of the MIT community fully vaccinated within the next few weeks.
While this is all good news, we cannot let our guard down. Several of our peer institutions have not been as fortunate, with some reporting hundreds of cases on their campuses in the past few days. That is not happening at MIT: On Tuesday, as many employees returned to campus for the first time in 18 months, we conducted a record 12,178 Covid-19 tests. Of those, we had 12 positive cases.
Still, with so many people now on campus, every positive case has the potential to yield more close contacts than when the campus was less densely occupied. This is expected, and we should continue to remember that our vaccine requirement, indoor masking, regular testing, and other precautions have helped MIT to stay one of the safest places in all of Massachusetts.
But it will take our collective commitment to keep it that way, and we need each of you to continue doing the following:
- Stay masked. Keep your mask on whenever you are indoors unless you are alone in an enclosed space. This is true throughout all of MIT — and is good practice to follow whenever you are in any public setting.
- Wear your mask properly. Always wear your mask snugly over your nose and mouth. Don’t let it fall off your nose. Improperly worn masks provide no protection for you or others.
- Dine outdoors whenever possible. Eating and drinking with others remains one of the most common forms of Covid-19 transmission. Dining outdoors helps to mitigate this risk.
- Avoid crowds and parties. As long as the Delta variant remains prevalent, anyone around you could be an asymptomatic carrier. Be cautious and avoid crowded settings whenever possible. If you must be in a crowded setting, stay masked, and try to keep your distance.
- Keep testing. Make sure you stay current with your required testing regimen. As the data show, testing, along with masking and vaccinations, are the keys to preventing the spread of the Delta variant.
- Please be patient. Ramping up our testing processes to accommodate the full campus has come with some growing pains. We are working to resolve issues as they arise. In the meantime, build in extra time if you plan to visit an observed testing location, and remember that results may be delayed due to the increased testing volume.
- If you feel sick, stay home. This is not the time to “power through.” If you have an unexplained sniffle or a sore throat, an unusual headache, a temperature, or any other unexplained symptoms, attest to them immediately using the Covid Pass app and self-isolate until MIT Medical contacts you or you speak with your personal clinician. Do not assume you have a small cold and then come to campus. It’s worth repeating: Stay home!
- Stay calm. In the weeks ahead, there will inevitably be more positive Covid-19 cases on campus. You should not assume that you are in danger because you heard about a possible exposure. MIT Medical contact traces every positive case. If you are at risk, we will be in touch.
Unfortunately, we don’t know when we will be able to roll back these preventative measures. We are continually monitoring the situation and remain in touch with the local and state departments of public health. When we can ease masking and testing mandates, we will. But until then, we must stay on our guard.
Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation — together, we can keep the MIT community healthy and on campus for education, research, and community activities.
Cecilia Stuopis, MD
Medical Director, MIT Medical