In an email to the Tufts community on Jan. 7, Provost and interim Senior Vice President Caroline Attardo Genco and University Infection Control Health Director Michael Jordan announced that classes will be conducted virtually through Friday, Jan. 24 for students in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and The Fletcher School. Spring semester classes will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 19 for A&SE and SMFA students and Tuesday, Jan. 18 for Fletcher students, as planned.
This policy change comes after the university confirmed in a Jan. 2 email that classes will be in person for the spring semester. In that email, university officials announced updated COVID-19 testing, quarantine and isolation protocols designed to enable an in-person semester amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts and around the country.
According to the Jan. 7 email, the purpose of moving classes online for the first few days of the semester is to stagger residential students’ return to campus over the course of a full week instead of a few days. This way, the university can better manage testing and isolation of COVID-19-positive students as they arrive.
In the email, administrators appealed to residential students to arrive on campus later in the week of Jan. 17th if possible.
“This way, we will optimize our ability to manage the testing and isolation of students who are COVID-positive before we resume in-person classes,” they wrote.
According to the email, the decision to move the first few days of classes online was made in consultation with public health experts, administration, faculty and campus partners with the goal of returning the university to normal operations as soon as it is possible to do so safely.
“We are taking action now to limit COVID exposure and illnesses among students, faculty, and staff to avoid serious disruptions to campus life and operations during the current surge, which is expected to peak by the third week of January,” the email said.
A second email sent on Jan. 7 to AS&E students from Jordan, Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizzaríbar and Medical Director of Health Service Marie Caggiano reiterated the university’s updated masking, quarantine, isolation and dining policies. The email reminded students to submit proof of their COVD-19 booster shot to Tufts and thanked the student body for their patience and cooperation in the face of these policy changes.
According to a third email sent on Jan. 7 to Tufts community members who participate in routine COVID-19 surveillance testing sent by Tufts COVID Testing, the Broad Institute is experiencing delays processing Tufts’ tests due to a high volume of tests and staffing shortages. The email also attributed the increased processing time — which has gone from an average of 14 hours to over 21 hours in the past week — to the university’s recent switch from pooled to individual PCR testing.
“Assuming a stable and low incidence of positive results by mid-February, the Boston and Medford testing sites will revert to pooled testing,” the email said.