MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis urges vigilance with COVID-19 and other respiratory illness

Stuopis strongly recommends COVID-19 boosters and flu immunizations

MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis urged the MIT community to continue taking precautions against COVID-19 amidst a rise in rates of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in the Boston area earlier this winter. 

Stuopis discussed factors contributing to the uptick in COVID-19 cases, MIT’s response to the increase, and guidelines for community members to reduce transmission in an interview with MIT News Jan. 13.

Stuopis said that in early November, “we [MIT Medical] predicted that the combination of an early start to the flu season, reduced Covid-19 restrictions, immune-dodging Omicron variants, and the nationwide surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could very well combine forces to make a lot of people sick.” 

There was a surge in levels of COVID-19 present in Boston-area wastewater up until the end of 2022, coinciding with the holiday season, according to recent data collected by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Since then, there has since been a steady decrease in the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater samples. 

Additionally, there has been a decrease in the percentage of hospitalizations due to influenza (down to 1.16% as of Jan. 8. 2023 from a high of 6.28% December 18, 2022), according to weekly flu updates reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health 

Stuopis said that “MIT is continuing to monitor the situation closely,” and that MIT Medical maintains “close communication with both local and state health officials.” 

With respect to preventative measures, Stuopis stated that vaccinations, which include COVID-19 boosters and flu immunizations, are “strongly recommend[ed],” and added that “masking remains a powerful method for preventing the spread of illness.” Furthermore, Stuopis emphasized that free KF-94 masks “are readily available in vending machines across campus,” and that hand sanitizers are still present “throughout MIT.” 

COVID-19 PCR tests “remain free for MIT Atlas (Covid Pass) participants who have symptoms,” Stuopis said, in accordance with MIT’s COVID-19 testing policy effective July 1, 2022. 

Stuopis reaffirmed that “MIT remains committed to providing students with a fully in-person education experience for 2023.”