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Tufts University School of Medicine

COVID-19 Update & Return to Campus Information – New University Policies

Thursday, December 30, 2021 - 12:15pm

Please refer to the Tufts COVID website (https://coronavirus.tufts.edu/) for additional guidance.

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Dear Tufts School of Medicine Community,

I hope you are having a nice break and have been able to enjoy time with family and friends. I write today with an update on the COVID-19 situation and some protocol changes and reminders prior to the start of the semester on Monday. Our goal is to preserve safe in-person education for the entire community. It is important to start by highlighting that we are in a better place than in March 2020, with several powerful tools including accurate tests, incredibly powerful vaccines, and several therapies for COVID-19.

The Omicron variant is now predominant in Massachusetts and has managed to outcompete the Delta variant due to its very high transmissibility and its ability to evade the immune response conferred by vaccination and prior infection. COVID-19 case numbers are as high as they have ever been throughout the pandemic. But there is some good news. Basic science research suggests that there is reason to believe that the Omicron variant is less capable of infecting lung cells and thus causing severe disease. Data from several countries shows the case-to-hospitalization rate is lower with Omicron than it was with Delta (meaning people are less likely to be hospitalized). Countries that started their Omicron wave earliest are already seeing a quite rapid decline in cases. Vaccines, though not as protective against infection by Omicron as they were against Delta, are still very protective against severe disease and death, particularly if you received a booster.

Following are a few reminders and updates:

Protection at school/work
  • Masks - please remember to wear a well-fitting (covering your nose and mouth) mask at all times when on campus, including in laboratories or in the clinical setting
    • Cloth masks are no longer permitted on Tufts’ campuses. Data show that cloth masks are not as effective as surgical-grade 3-ply or KN95 masks in preventing transmission of the virus. You must wear disposable 3-ply or high quality KN95 masks and replace them daily or sooner if they get wet or dirty. The university is providing disposable 3-ply masks in many locations on all campuses.
    • A three-ply surgical-grade mask (issued at the doors) or high-quality KN95 mask should be worn at all times except when alone in a classroom or office or when eating or drinking
    • Please ask patients to put on masks, whenever possible, and any time you are within 6 feet of them
    • N95 respirators are required for the care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and for the care of patients undergoing aerosol generating procedures
  • For all patient care activity, you must wear eye protection
  • Food service at on-campus dining centers will be grab-and-go only until further notice. Eating and drinking during in-person meetings, events, and gatherings is not allowed. However, eating is permitted in areas that are well-ventilated and where there is plenty of room to spread out. Be sure to wash/sanitize your hands and clean/disinfect the area where you are eating before and after meals.
Testing
  • Medical School students on the Maine track and those in years three or four who rotate at institutions other than Tufts Medical Center, and therefore are not being tested by Tufts University, must follow the isolation and quarantine policy of their local institution.
  • To further keep the community safe and to minimize preventable transmission of the virus, surveillance testing frequency will increase starting in January 2022 until the end of the current surge. Until further notice, individual testing will be used. Practically, this means: 
    • Every other day individual PCR tests for students, faculty/staff coming to campus > 3 times per week
    • Testing each day on campus for those students, faculty/staff coming to campus less than 3 times per week

As you know, the CDC and Mass DPH have issued revised isolation and quarantine guidelines that include shorter isolation periods for individual meeting certain criteria. The university will be soon coming out with university guidance that conform with these new federal and state recommendations.

For students, further detail will be coming from your Deans regarding specifics of your program, etc. I will continue to communicate often as we move through this surge and remain confident that we will get through this together. Many thanks for your support and Happy New Year!

Sincerely,
Helen

Helen W. Boucher MD FACP FIDSA
Dean ad interim
Professor of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
Chief Academic Officer
Wellforce Health System/Tufts Medical Center