This Week in COVID-19: Cases rise following spring break, Tufts reinstates mask mandate

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COVID-19 cases have increased on the Medford/Somerville campus following students’ return from spring break. The University reported 28 new cases on Saturday and 68 the day before. This marks the second time Tufts has reached the highest recorded number of cases in a day. The average number of COVID-19 cases in a day increased by around 10% in the past week, with an average of 29 students testing positive each day in the week before Saturday. 

Both Middlesex and Massachusetts have seen an increase in case numbers since mid-to-late March. The average number of positive cases in a week went up 16% in Middlesex and almost 16% in Massachusetts on Wednesday. 

Given these trends, Tufts announced last week that it would halt its tentative plans to lift the indoor mask mandate and to remove surveillance testing on April 15. According to the new policy, masking will continue to be required for all community members and visitors until the end of final exams. Surveillance testing will be reinstated, requiring undergraduate students to test twice per week and faculty and staff to test once per week. 

University Director of Infectious Disease Michael R. Jordan said that the change in policy is related to the recent increase of cases on campus upon students’ return from break.

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 “The steps we have announced are necessary because we continue to see a high incidence and prevalence of positive COVID cases on the Medford/Somerville campus,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.

Jordan also cited the highly transmissible Omicron variant as a factor that went into consideration.

 “We also have seen the emergence of the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron,” Jordan said. “In consideration of all of these factors, we have extended the indoor masking requirement and the continuation of surveillance testing at its current frequency for undergraduate students.”

Jordan pointed to conditions in the University's initial de-masking plan, which stated that mask requirements and other regulations would only be uplifted if cases went down on the Medford/Somerville campus, as grounds for the decision.

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