MIT presents reopening plans at Cambridge City Council committee meeting

MIT presented its fall reopening plans to the Cambridge City Council’s Economic Development and University Relations Committee Aug. 11. MIT Office of Government and Community Relations Co-Director Sarah Gallop, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis ’90, and MIT Emergency Management Director Suzanne Blake spoke at the meeting.

Gallop described MIT’s plans as “cautious and conservative” and “aligned with guidance” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said that about 2,600 graduate and undergraduate students will be living on campus in the fall.

Stuopis said that campus risk management strategies include limiting campus density, mandatory daily health attestations, regular testing, and contact tracing.

The health attestations require individuals on campus to report symptoms and agree to comply with physical distancing and face covering guidelines.

The health attestation app was developed at MIT and “is linked to an individual’s MIT ID card, which then allows us to potentially control access to buildings for people who report symptoms, or who are not compliant,” Stuopis said. The app can also notify MIT Medical if anyone has positive responses to the health screening questionnaire.

Stuopis also said that community members on campus will be required to test for COVID-19 twice weekly. Those who develop symptoms will be tested via an “alternative pathway” separate from asymptomatic individuals.

Stuopis said that MIT Medical currently has “no plans for digital contact tracing.” MIT Medical will instead perform “case investigation” once an individual with a positive test is identified.

Blake described MIT’s emergency management plan. She said that if MIT does “have to ramp down again, it will be very methodical and very planned out.” MIT has two types of ramp down plans: localized, within a location or activity, or campus-wide, in multiple phases and sectors. 

MIT’s “triggers for action” for ramp-down include negative trends in Massachusetts public health, increased transmission within Cambridge, community transmission on campus, death on campus due to COVID-19, and any infection rate that impacts essential operations, Blake said.

Harvard and Lesley University also presented their fall plans at the meeting.