Helping local hospitals and communities respond to the COVID-19 surge
April 6, 2020
Dear Tufts community members and neighbors,
I have always been proud of the way the Tufts community rises to the occasion, particularly in challenging times. We are in exactly such a situation now, and it is in this spirit that I write to you to inform you of important news.
In partnership with local healthcare providers and our host communities, the university has offered to provide space in its residence halls to house medical personnel, first responders, and patients, including those recovering from COVID-19. This is not only our civic obligation but also an important way for us to help minimize the spread of the virus, which in turn will reduce risk of exposure to members of our Tufts community and neighbors in our host communities. This is especially important as our local hospitals prepare for a surge of cases in coming days and weeks that threatens to overwhelm their capacity.
The university has offered to house:
- First responders from the cities of Somerville and Medford who cannot return home to potentially vulnerable family members because they are awaiting test results, have tested positive and need to isolate, and/or have vulnerable family members who belong to high-risk populations.
- Medical personnel from Cambridge Health Alliance and Tufts Medical Center who cannot return home to potentially vulnerable family members in high-risk populations.
- Cambridge Health Alliance patients, including COVID-19 positive patients who are no longer in need of critical care but who still need to isolate and whose transfer into Tufts residence halls can free up hospital beds for those who are seriously ill.
- Tufts staff members whose presence is required on campus and who have either had an exposure to a COVID-19 positive person or who prefer to stay on campus so as to not risk infecting family members who have compromised immune systems or other risk factors.
We will be able to do this because we have segmented our campus into separate zones for different types of populations, meeting the needs of each while protecting everyone’s health. Our local and healthcare partners will provide all care and support, including medical care, food delivery, waste removal, security, cleaning, and other needs.
I know this may raise some concerns about the health and safety of Tufts community members. I want to assure you that in all of our plans and actions, we are guided by the advice and direction of medical professionals and logistics experts whose expertise enables this multi-pronged approach while ensuring that those who have been exposed to COVID-19 remain separated from those who have not. We and our local and healthcare partners are following all appropriate guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting these spaces to ensure the health and wellness of our community members. For additional details, please see this FAQ.
As we move forward with these and future plans to meet the needs of our local communities and healthcare partners, we are committed to informing you and keeping you updated.
Making our residence halls available in this manner is one of the many ways the university is stepping up to help meet the needs expressed to us by the leaders of our host communities and the leaders of our local health care systems. Already, the university has:
- Donated to our local hospitals a supply of personal protective equipment and respirators that we have collected from our research and teaching labs and our veterinary hospitals.
- Lent expertise to repair more than 6,000 broken N95 masks that will now be usable by healthcare personnel at Tufts Medical Center.
- Offered our parking lots for alternative testing sites to help decrease demand on hospitals.
- Shared our guidance and planning tools with other colleges and universities to encourage them to take similar steps to help their local healthcare systems and host communities.
I am grateful to the many people who are working tirelessly to enable Tufts to make this contribution to the health, safety, and wellness not only of the local community, but also of students, faculty, and staff. Every step we take to help the larger community helps the Tufts community. I also am grateful to Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, both of whom have been strong advocates for their communities and committed partners with Tufts as we confront this challenge together, as well as to Mayor Marty Walsh for his leadership during this crisis.
As COVID-19 continues to have an impact globally and locally, it is clear that support and action are needed from all corners. Individuals, communities, and institutions can all play a part in mitigating the spread of this pandemic. I feel strongly that Tufts and other universities, particularly research universities, have an abundance of resources to offer our community and healthcare partners in their fight against this unprecedented and rapidly changing challenge. We have the ability to help with our space, facilities, infrastructure, and partnerships. We need to match our capacities to providers’ needs in order to help relieve the pressure on the healthcare system.
Universities have begun answering this call, and the Tufts community has stepped up in incredible ways, from students raising money to help fellow students in need to alumni giving generously to aid their fellow Jumbos. As much as we have done, we can and will do more—including continuing to marshal the university’s resources in the service of the greater good.
Be well, be safe, and stay committed to each other’s good health.