MIT requires boosters, updates isolation policies and IAP plans in response to rise in positive cases and Omicron variant

All eligible community members must submit proof of booster by Jan. 14

In response to a local and global rise in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant, MIT is requiring all eligible community members to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster by Jan. 14 to access MIT buildings. MIT has also updated its isolation and quarantine practices, event policies, and Independent Activities Period (IAP) plans.

Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen, Chancellor Melissa Nobles, Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis ’90, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education Ian Waitz, and Vice President for Research Maria Zuber wrote in a Dec. 13 email to the MIT community that all eligible individuals ages 16 and older studying, working, or living at MIT or accessing MIT facilities would be required to upload proof of receiving the COVID-19 booster by Jan. 14. 

MIT Medical offered a series of booster vaccine clinics between Dec. 6 and Dec. 16 and will continue to offer clinics during January and at the beginning of the spring semester. Individuals who received their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least six months ago are eligible for the booster. 

MIT estimates that 47% of community members received their boosters at the conclusion of the December clinics.

Community members who do not submit proof of their booster vaccine by Jan. 14 will not be able to access MIT buildings past that date until they satisfy the requirement. Those who are not yet eligible will have two weeks to receive their booster once eligible before being considered out of compliance with MIT’s requirement.

Community members who have previously received a religious or medical exemption from MIT’s vaccine requirement are also exempt from receiving the booster vaccine. 

MIT has also made changes to its contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine practices.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released new guidance for individuals isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, shortening the recommended isolation period for an individual showing no symptoms from 10 days to 5 days, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. If the individual experiences a fever or has symptoms that are not mild nor improving, they must continue to isolate.

Following isolation, an individual who tested positive should not test for 90 days.

As of Dec. 23, if a community member tests positive, they will be notified by COVID Pass and email and directed to complete a form to inform MIT Medical’s contact tracing team. Additionally, in the past, supervisors, advisors, instructors, and academic leaders have been notified about positive cases; MIT Medical will now reach out only to those individuals who need to take specific actions in response to a positive test. 

Close contacts of individuals who test positive must wear a mask around others for 10 days and test on the fifth day after exposure if they are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated close contacts must quarantine for five days, test on the fifth day after exposure, and wear a mask around others  for the five days following their quarantine.

Students in campus housing or fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups who test positive and do not require hospitalization will be asked to isolate in their rooms and may not cook for themselves. Grab-and-go meals will be available for isolating students in their residences.

If roommates each test positive, they will be asked to quarantine together. However, if one or more roommates tests negative, MIT may make temporary accommodations available to them, and they may return to their room if they test positive or once the positive-testing roommate’s isolation period ends.

Food and drink may no longer be provided or consumed at MIT-sponsored events on or off campus, though events are still permitted. Visitors and event attendees are also encouraged to be fully vaccinated with the booster if eligible. Spectators at on-campus indoor athletic events are now limited to COVID Pass users.

Undergraduate students taking for-credit academic classes important for academic progression; participating in research, internships, athletics, and professional development activities; or those who otherwise would not have appropriate living or learning environments are invited to return for IAP, which began Jan. 3 and ends Jan. 28.

Allen, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson, Nobles, Schmidt, Shor, Stuopis, Waitz, and Zuber wrote in a Dec. 21 email that they expect residential density during IAP to be reduced by 40–50%, similar to previous years, because not all students return to campus for IAP.

Undergraduates were asked to complete an IAP plans registry by Dec. 27 and to complete pre-arrival testing via a mail-in COVID-19 testing kit. 

Students who test positive for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus are not permitted to come on campus. They must notify MIT Medical of their positive test through COVID Pass and isolate off campus until advised to return to campus.

Students who test negative must participate in a quiet period upon arriving at MIT to minimize disruptions to IAP. During the quiet period, students may participate in IAP classes and Institute activities and events and carry out essential needs such as getting food or cooking, picking up packages, and exercising. However, they should avoid student-led events and gatherings and wear their masks whenever they are outside their rooms. The quiet period ends once students receive two negative on-campus test results — one upon arrival and one 3–4 days later. 

Twice-weekly testing and daily attestations for undergraduates will continue as usual during IAP.

Managers are strongly encouraged to have employees work remotely when feasible during IAP in order to “ease pressure on campus testing and tracing systems” as MIT prepares for the spring, according to the Dec. 21 email.

Research operations will continue as they have, though MIT encourages faculty and other principal investigators to review their research continuity plans due to the increased likelihood of researchers testing positive and being unable to come to work. Research leaders should also encourage flexible work locations during IAP.