Students and administrators discuss face covering, testing, vaccination policies at July 28 meeting

Students will not be required to quarantine upon arrival, face coverings will be required indoors

Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson hosted a student life conversation session over Zoom July 28 to discuss and answer questions about returning to campus in the fall. Also present at the session were Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz and Director of MIT Medical Cecilia Stuopis ’90.

In contrast to Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, students arriving on campus will not be required to quarantine for one week, Waitz said during the session. MIT will instead emphasize vaccinations and provide vaccinations to those who are not yet vaccinated, in addition to establishing an entry testing protocol, requiring face coverings indoors, and continuing to require attestations.

Waitz also said that due to limited access to vaccines and exemptions for medical or religious reasons, there would be “100 or perhaps more” students in shared housing arriving to campus unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccinated with a vaccine not recognized by the World Health Organization. Waitz added that as of July 28, “about 1,000” students had yet to report their vaccination status to MIT.

Stuopis reported during the session that MIT had seen an increase in positive COVID-19 tests since the Independence Day holiday, including breakthrough cases (positive COVID-19 tests from fully vaccinated individuals). MIT’s COVID-19 dashboard recorded 37 positive tests (0.09% positive rate) in July, an increase from three (0.01% positive rate) in June. In the first four days of August, the dashboard recorded 10 positive tests (0.13% positive rate). 

Stuopis said that in order to monitor potential cases, students will be asked to test three times in their first week on campus: upon arrival, on day four, and on day seven. They will also be prompted to submit attestations daily through the COVID Pass app. 

Unvaccinated students will be offered Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer vaccines upon arrival by their second day on campus. Vaccine clinics will take place at MIT Medical on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays beginning Aug. 9.

Face coverings will be required in all campus buildings in the fall, with some exceptions. Exceptions include for faculty and instructional staff while teaching, students when alone in residential common areas or in their rooms, employees when alone in their work spaces, and anyone while eating or drinking. MIT will regularly reevaluate its face covering policy once the fall semester is underway.

During the summer, students were not required to wear face coverings in their residence halls and FSILGs. The face covering policy will be reinstated in the fall in preparation for the large number of arrivals on campus, though Nelson said “our preference would be that there would not be a mask mandate in your living community.”

Students will be asked to sign a compliance agreement prior to arriving on campus. MIT does not plan to have teams in residence halls specifically managing compliance with policies and will instead rely on an honor system. Students who are out of compliance will lose access to non-residential buildings only, not their living community.

Nelson said during the session that undergraduate housing will be at full capacity during the fall and that graduate housing is projected to be at 86% capacity. Fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups (FSILGs) will also be fully open in August, with recruitment to take place in early September. Students living in FSILGs will be required to follow the same COVID-19 policies as those living in on-campus residence halls.

Multiple family members will be permitted to help students move in, provided that they wear face coverings. Students will also be permitted to host overnight guests for up to three days in a seven day period. Guests will be required to wear face coverings indoors.

Dining halls and campus eateries will be open in the fall, likely with reduced seating and options for dine in or take out. Students are encouraged to eat outdoors. Additionally, kitchens in cook for yourself residences will reopen. A kitchen steward training and safe food and beverage service protocols are currently under development.

Student organizations, FSILGs, and residence halls will be permitted to host events with both COVID Pass and non-COVID Pass attendees. Events must be registered beforehand and contact information for attendees must be provided for contact tracing purposes. 

Policies for K-12 programs sponsored by student organizations are currently under development.

Nelson added that athletic competitions would resume in line with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Student life conversations sessions will continue to be held during August. Students can fill out an online form to receive email communication about the conversations or access materials from the sessions at an online archive.