Tufts will not ease its indoor mask mandate or end its required surveillance testing protocol by April 15 as previously planned, University Infection Health Control Director Michael Jordan informed the community in an April 7 email.
“We are doing this to keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible through the end of the final exam period (May 13) and to maximize the success of our in-person graduation events and Commencement in May to celebrate our 2022 and 2020 graduates,” Jordan wrote in the email.
The decision represents a reversal of the university’s March 16 announcement of a plan to drop its indoor mask mandate and shift from surveillance to symptomatic COVID-19 testing in the third week of April.
Instead, masking will continue to be required for all community members and visitors through the end of the final exam period. Students, faculty and staff will continue their required surveillance testing at current frequencies — twice per week for undergraduate students and once per week for faculty and staff — with the exception of most graduate students, who will now be required to test only once instead of twice per week, effective immediately. Graduate students who live on campus or are involved in athletic programs will maintain their prior testing cadence of twice per week.
Also effective immediately, faculty in large lecture halls and speakers at events are permitted to lecture without a mask, provided they stand at least 12 feet from the front row, according to the email.
Administration officials tempered their March announcement with caution, stating they would follow through on the easing of restrictions only if cases remained low after spring break. According to the Daily’s COVID-19 dashboard, case numbers on the Medford/Somerville campus fell during spring break and have since risen back to a level comparable to that of the week before break.
Tufts students quickly took to Sidechat — an anonymous, Tufts-specific social media platform — and a Change.org petition titled “Tufts: Drop Mask Mandate NOW!” to protest the reversal. The petition garnered over 200 signatures and several exasperated comments in the hours following the university announcement.
“Tufts students are vaccinated, boosted, masked and tested twice a week. hospital rates are extremely low. End the insanity! Testing and masking is bad for mental health!” one commenter wrote.