In an email to the Tufts community on Sunday, Jan. 2, Provost and interim Senior Vice President Caroline Attardo Genco, University Infection Control Health Director Michael Jordan and Executive Vice President Mike Howard confirmed an in-person start to the spring semester and announced new public health guidelines the university will implement in response to the current steep increase in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts and the United States. These protocols include an increase in testing frequency, a return to individual PCR testing and a shift to grab-and-go dining only.
The university administration said on Dec. 16 that they expected Tufts to operate fully in person for the spring semester with the addition of a COVID-19 booster shot requirement. However, after a surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and particularly the northeast prompted several universities to announce that they would begin their semesters virtually, a Tufts spokesperson told the Boston Herald that the administration was “still in the process of analyzing data and considering our options.”
According to the email from Genco, Jordan and Howard, Tufts will increase COVID-19 testing frequency from two to three times per week for all students, faculty, staff and affiliates beginning Jan. 2 and 3 for the Boston and Medford campuses, respectively. Additionally, the university will go back to administering individual PCR tests instead of pooled tests, which were used throughout the fall 2021 semester.
The university has also updated its quarantine and isolation procedures based on new CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance and the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant. Students who test positive for COVID-19 must now isolate for at least five days, depending on their symptoms. The email warned that Tufts’ isolation housing on the Medford/Somerville campus may run out early in the semester, in which case on-campus students will be asked to isolate in their residence halls.
According to the email, Tufts will no longer allow cloth masks on its campuses. Community members must now wear surgical-grade 3-ply or KN95 masks, which they must replace daily. The university will provide disposable 3-ply masks at various locations around campus.
The university also announced that dining will operate in a grab-and-go format only, until further notice. Eating and drinking will not be permitted at in-person events and gatherings but will be allowed in designated well-ventilated spaces around campus.
The email contained a flowchart students can use to determine whether they will need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Students who are fully vaccinated, have received a booster shot and are not showing symptoms will not be asked to quarantine.
In the email, Genco, Jordan and Howard acknowledged that the updated guidelines are more restrictive than before and stressed that they were implemented to keep the Tufts community safe amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and update the university’s guidance when necessary,” they wrote.