MIT enters Phase 2 of reopening

Campus access expands, regular testing commences, outdoor spaces are regulated, and staff policies change

MIT entered Phase 2 of its ramp-up of on-campus operations Aug. 12, according to an email to the MIT community from Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88, and Vice President for Research Maria Zuber.

Phase 2 expands campus access for researchers, instructors, and graduate students, initiates regular testing for community members accessing campus buildings, and regulates the use of “outdoor campus space,” Barnhart, Schmidt, and Zuber wrote.

Phase 2 allows departments, labs, and centers to “initiate partial access to campus offices and teaching laboratories” for “faculty, researchers, instructional staff, and graduate students whose research and/or instructional activities require that access.” Access is capped at 50% capacity, which the email defines as “office access equal to 50% of the normal on-campus hours available to their faculty, staff, and grad students.” 

MIT has also initiated regular COVID-19 testing for “everyone who accesses campus.” Compliance with testing requirements is mandatory for maintaining campus access, the email wrote. MIT community members accessing campus can view their testing requirements on the COVID Pass app for daily health attestations.

All individuals on campus who are already enrolled in the COVID Pass system will receive a “baseline test” by Aug. 20. Students who come to campus this fall will be tested upon arrival. Subsequently, MIT community members on campus four or more days a week, including individuals living in residence halls, will be tested “at least twice weekly”; MIT community members on campus one to three days a week will be tested at least weekly; and those on campus less frequently must have “a test on file within the past 7 days” before gaining campus access.

The email wrote that the testing protocol will be regularly evaluated and may be subject to change.

MIT is also limiting access to “outdoor campus space” to “those enrolled in MIT safety protocols, including MIT Medical testing and Covid Access/Covid Pass, with a maximum group size of 25 persons,” the email wrote.

President L. Rafael Reif, Schmidt, and Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen sent letters to MIT staff Aug. 11 detailing updates to on-campus work requirements and COVID-19-related pay and benefits policies.

Reif wrote that although “every MIT staff member who can work successfully from home will need to continue doing so, at least until the beginning of January 2021,” most staff members with on-campus duties must return to work in person on campus by Aug. 31.

Reif wrote that the move to bring more staff back to campus is “in line with Governor Baker’s guidelines for [Massachusetts’] Phase 3 reopening.”

Schmidt and Allen wrote that the “special pandemic-related pay policies” established mid-March, including a pay premium for staff working on-campus, expire after Aug. 30.

Schmidt and Allen wrote that MIT “may no longer be able to continue to provide” the “full usual pay” for “staff members whose work has been eliminated or reduced as a result of the pandemic” or those “who are unable to do their work because of family responsibilities.” They added that these staff members “will be placed on unpaid leave.”

MIT has established a one-time childcare subsidy of $2,000 per child under 12 for up to three children for benefits-eligible staff members and postdoctoral researchers. The application for the subsidy is available on the Human Resources website. 

Schmidt and Allen also encourage benefits-eligible staff members and postdoctoral researchers “experiencing financial distress” or “unable to cover immediate, essential expenses due to additional costs or loss of income during the pandemic” to apply to the MIT Staff Emergency Hardship Fund, which may “provide one-time support of up to $1,000.”

MIT will also extend free on-campus parking for anyone with an MIT ID until Dec. 31, Schmidt and Allen wrote. 

Phase 2 of MIT’s reopening, termed the “cautious” phase, is the third of five phases of resuming on-campus operations, according to a chart linked in Barnhart, Schmidt, and Zuber’s email. 

In Phase 0, which began in mid-March, only “essential personnel” including faculty and staff “supporting students in emergency housing or critical building and research operations” were approved for campus access. 

In Phase 1, which began June 15, graduate students, research staff, and faculty requiring laboratory access were invited on campus, with an “anticipated gradual increase in campus population density and on-campus hours over time.” 

In Phase 3, the “vigilant” phase, campus access will be expanded to undergraduate campus residents, graduate students, on-campus instructors, and Student Support Services staff.

In Phase 4, the “new normal” phase, “all other administrative and non-research staff” will be invited to campus.

During Phases 0, 1, 2, and 3, several protective measures have been in place, including mandatory face masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, testing, contract tracing, daily health attestations, limited building access points, “isolation and quarantine plans,” “remote working when possible,” “online teaching and learning when possible,” and “policies limiting campus visitor access, MIT-approved travel, and events.”

According to the chart, Phase 4 will be implemented when there is a COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutics, or herd immunity.