Tufts has asked all students in on-campus housing to pack up their belongings before departing for winter break, in the event that the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and the university is forced to cancel the in-person spring semester, according to Director of Residential Life and Learning Josh Hartman. If this occurs, Tufts will either move, store or ship students’ belongings to them.
“Because the course of the pandemic during the break is unpredictable, we have asked all students to pack their belongings in case it is not possible to return to campus according to our expected schedule,” Hartman wrote in an email to the Daily.
Tufts does not expect to move the spring semester online but is preparing for all possibilities, according to Hartman.
“While we expect to be resuming in-person residence and instruction for the spring semester as scheduled, we are planning for a range of contingencies in case the pandemic worsens,” Hartman said.
The winter break calendar has been extended to allow for students to return on a staggered basis in the spring, as they did in the fall.
“Classes will start later in Spring 2021 to create a longer winter break allowing for students to arrive on a staggered basis and complete their testing and quarantine requirements before classes begin,” Marie Caggiano, medical director of Health Service, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Caggiano expressed concern at the rising number of cases in the Tufts area and in Massachusetts.
“COVID rates are rising in the communities surrounding Tufts and, as we approach colder weather with more time spent indoors, we are concerned that these rates will continue to rise,” Caggiano said.
As such, Tufts is planning strategies to ensure that students can safely congregate next semester.
“For example, a group including the Dean of Student Affairs office, Facilities, Campus Life, Student Health, and Residential Life have been working collaboratively to identify outdoor locations that can be utilized with lighting and heaters in the colder months, and plans to implement several of these are well underway,” Camille Lizarribar, dean of student affairs and chief student affairs officer, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Lizarribar also explained the situation about students remaining on campus for winter break.
“Due to the restrictions created by the pandemic, our capacity to offer winter break housing is very limited. However, there will be exceptions for international students who face travel restrictions, as well as for students with other significant hardships,” Lizarribar said.
She indicated that more information regarding permission to stay on campus is forthcoming.
Testing over the winter break will continue for students, staff and faculty in need. Students who test positive will be permitted to stay in the Mods and receive food provided by the university.
“For students who test positive and need to isolate or are identified as close contacts of a person who tests positive, Tufts will continue to offer supports including housing at the mods, food delivery, and case management. Testing will continue to be available for staff and faculty,” Caggiano said.
Caggiano also said Counseling and Mental Health Services will remain open for students.
Hartman confirmed that Tufts will also deep clean the dorms over winter break.
“Our Facilities team will be entering all residence halls to conduct cleaning that is best completed without occupants in the building, such as shampooing carpet and other deeper cleaning methods,” Hartman said.