The Tufts community received an email on Feb. 18 informing students and staff that certain COVID-19 restrictions on Tufts’ campuses will be relaxed. Some restrictions, including those concerning fitness center use, dining services, student organization meetings and the stay-at-home order, were lifted. However, other restrictions, such as the 10-person gathering limit and testing frequency, will remain in place.
Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, said the number of cases has declined at Tufts since arrival quarantine and in Massachusetts in general, which led the university to make the decision to relax certain restrictions. In an email to the Daily, Jordan shared that Tufts considers the condition of the state as well as the Medford and Somerville communities when making decisions about on-campus COVID-19 guidelines.
“We closely and continuously monitor the number of positive cases in the state and our host communities and factor this data, as well as numerous other data points, into our decision making,” Jordan said. “Depending on the data, we will ease or tighten restrictions as necessary as we have done throughout the pandemic.”
Jordan said that in addition to the number of cases, the university also takes into account the number of secondary contacts who contract COVID-19 through exposure to infected individuals when evaluating whether restrictions can be safely lifted.
According to the Daily’s COVID-19 dashboard, Tufts recorded four new cases on Feb. 21, which is down from a peak of 21 new cases on Jan. 25. Average new cases per day, however, have risen over the past week.
The email sent to the community explained the details of the new guidelines. The fitness center reopened, but club, intramural and varsity sports remain on pause for the time being.
As of Feb. 21, students are allowed to make in-person reservations at Carmichael Dining Center and Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center. Prior to this change, students had been limited to ordering on the Mobile Order application and picking up pre-packaged food when they received a notification that their food was ready. Although all food is still packaged in to-go containers, students may now walk through and order from the various stations, and the dining centers allow in-person dining at 25% capacity.
Gov. Charlie Baker lifted Massachusetts’ overnight stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, which required residents to remain in their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and had been in place since November. Tufts had been enforcing the same curfew since that time, but due to the continuing downward trend in cases, has lifted it as well.
The email noted that despite the decrease in the number of cases, all events and gatherings of any kind are still limited to 10 people. Tufts’ travel policy implemented this fall remains in effect and the COVID-19 surveillance testing protocol will remain as it was, with all undergraduates in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering studying in person and all graduate students in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering living in Tufts-owned housing and playing on varsity teams being tested every other day.
Jordan said that despite these relaxed guidelines, the residential campus status level remains at “Yellow Plus” as it was at the start of the spring semester.
“We have not officially changed status to Yellow; however, we are moving in this direction,” Jordan said. “When and if it becomes safe to decrease the frequency of COVID testing that we did in the fall, we will do so. This will move us to Yellow.”
Joe Golia, director for campus life, wrote in an email to the Daily that student organizations are now able to operate in the same manner as they did at the beginning of the fall semester. Golia said he hopes organizations appreciate the change.
“Not much change for student organizations from where they were but … hopefully [this] will help some groups,” Golia said.
The details of the updated student organization guidelines were sent in an email addressed to student organization leaders on Feb. 18 in which certain restrictions for student groups and organizations were lifted beginning Feb. 22. Among these relaxations, up to 10 people are allowed to meet in person for organization meetings and use on-campus spaces provided that capacity and physical distancing guidelines are followed.
The Office for Campus Life’s student organization guidelines state that student groups may offer hybrid events that require pre-registration for picking up supplies in person. In addition, grab-n-go events are permitted in any campus event space that allows for physical distancing. Information on the OCL website concerning restrictions on student organizations will continue to be updated as changes are made, the website says.
Jordan stressed that it is still vital to continue wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and adhering to the COVID-19 testing protocols, stating that restrictions may be reimposed if the data once again begin to show concerning trends.
“We will closely monitor the number of positive cases at Tufts and in Massachusetts, and continue to track the potential emergence of variants within the state,” Jordan said. “An increase in the number of cases at Tufts or in the state may require the tightening of restrictions … We cannot let our guard down.”