MIT relaxes COVID-19 face covering and testing policies effective March 14

Visitors must continue to be escorted by COVID Pass holders or invited using the Tim Tickets system

MIT will relax several of its COVID-19 policies effective March 14, Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen, Provost Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson, Chancellor Melissa Nobles, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis ’90, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education Ian Waitz, and Vice President for Research Maria Zuber announced in an email to the community Monday. 

Notably, masks will become optional for vaccinated individuals in most indoor areas on campus; COVID-19 testing — currently required once a week for students, campus residents, and unvaccinated community members — will become optional; and daily health attestations will no longer be required. 

Masks will still be required on MIT shuttle buses and in MIT Medical facilities.

Campus access, which is currently dependent on testing and completion of daily attestations, will be granted to all vaccinated MIT ID holders; visitors must continue to be escorted by COVID Pass holders or invited using the Tim Tickets system. 

MIT previously relaxed the policy on face coverings in residence halls Feb. 21, no longer requiring masks for groups of four or fewer in student living-space lounges.

The changes followed the City of Cambridge’s relaxation of indoor-masking policies. Both MIT and the City of Cambridge have reported “sustained improvement” in COVID-19 metrics over the past months, with MIT’s positivity rates declining from 2.63% in January, to 0.56% and 0.77% in February and March, respectively. The daily number of students in isolation, both on and off campus, has also shown downward trends since their peak in the first two weeks of January.

The March 7 email also urged students to utilize COVID-19 testing when they feel symptoms; are in an “elevated risk situation” such as travel or known exposure to someone who has tested positive; or when they plan to be in situations that may expose others, such as large gatherings or interactions with immunocompromised people.

In a campus updates meeting March 7, administrators stated that the plan to relax COVID-19 policies was finally being revisited after being derailed due to the onset of the omicron variant.

The meeting notes include an analysis of targeted testing and the request to students to test when symptomatic. According to the notes, MIT community members can “control spread without masking” if they test “when symptoms and known exposure occur” given that more than 75% of people who test positive become symptomatic, with emerging evidence that asymptomatic people are much less infectious. The notes assume that 15% of the MIT population has had omicron and have immunity, that 99% are vaccinated and boosted, and that vaccines are 35% effective against transmission.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the last day that many MIT employees and students were on campus before de-densifying campus at the onset of the pandemic. Since then, more than 32,000 students, employees, and affiliates have been regularly testing, attesting, and otherwise adhering to Institute COVID-19 regulations.