Tufts University will run in-person pre-orientation programs for incoming first-year students this fall, according to a series of announcements from university officials. They also announced several updates to the fall 2021 onboarding process for all students.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar, Tufts decided to run pre-orientation programs due to new health guidelines coming from government officials.
“We continually revise our programs to meet public health guidelines, as we have done all year,” Lizarríbar said in an email to the Daily.
The programs have a reduced risk of spreading COVID-19 due to high rates of vaccination and testing. This is possible because of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all students next year.
“We will have high levels of vaccination coverage, as vaccine against COVID-19 is mandatory,” University Control Health Director Michael Jordan and Medical Director Marie Caggiano said in an email to the Daily. “We will require the wearing of masks indoors. And we will require testing for COVID-19 upon arrival on campus, 3-4 days after the arrival test, and then weekly thereafter.”
Tufts plans to offer virtual pre-orientation options in addition to the in-person programs, according to Joe Golia, director for campus life.
Incoming first-years participating in pre-orientation programs will arrive from Aug. 27 to Aug. 29, depending on their program. Everyone will be tested immediately upon arrival.
All first-years not participating in pre-orientation will arrive on Sept. 1. The first day of classes for the fall 2021 semester will be Sept. 8.
Tufts also announced updates to the onboarding process for all students in the fall 2021 semester.
All students arriving to campus are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and documentation for such vaccination must be provided to Tufts Health Service. Jordan announced in a previous email that any vaccine approved by any country or the World Health Organization is acceptable.
In a revision to previous COVID-19 protocols, the deadline for all students to upload proof of vaccination is now July 1.
According to Jordan and Caggiano, arriving students will be tested for COVID-19 with a rapid antigen test. Results of the rapid test will be available within 30 minutes. Standard PCR tests will be used in weekly surveillance testing throughout the semester.
If a vaccinated student receives a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, no quarantine is necessary, and they may participate in all campus activities immediately. However, according to Centers for Disease Control guidance, any unvaccinated student — international or domestic — must quarantine for seven days upon arrival, regardless of test results.
“Upon arrival to campus, any student who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and who has not been approved for a medical or religious exemption, will be required by state and local health regulations to quarantine for 7 days before leaving their rooms or off-campus apartments,” Lizarríbar said in an email to the student body on Wednesday.
Tufts will provide a United States Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine to individuals who have received a non-WHO-approved vaccine. Current FDA-approved vaccines include the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines and the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
“Tufts will help international students who do not have access to vaccine to obtain it once they arrive on campus,” Jordan and Caggiano said.
All students will be tested weekly using the same COVID-19 PCR test as last year. According to Jordan and Caggiano, the difference in cost to the university between the PCR test and rapid antigen test is negligible.
“Rapid tests may become more widely available and used to speed the return to campus for returning travelers and for those arriving on campus,” Jordan and Caggiano said. “Standard PCR surveillance testing will continue at a frequency of once weekly.”
Students who test positive for COVID-19 throughout the semester will be isolated just like last year. However, because of the student vaccine mandate, fewer isolation units will be needed.
“Based on discussions with our medical team, we determined that we will require less isolation and quarantine housing in the Mods this coming year than we did last year,” Director of Residential Life and Learning Josh Hartman said in an email to the Daily. “Many elements factor into that determination, including the requirement that all students be vaccinated and updates to guidance at the local, state, and federal levels.”
Tufts will continue to utilize two Mod buildings for isolation and quarantine requirements throughout the fall 2021 semester. These Mods will be located on the Vouté Tennis Courts.