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September 14, 2021

Dear Student,

We are all joyful to be back on campus and able to see friends in person. We all hoped that the vaccines might allow us to go back to our pre-pandemic normal. Eventually, that may be the case, but we are not yet there. In fact, we are writing because the number of positive COVID-19 tests at Tufts has increased during the last few days. This is almost surely due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

How bad could this situation get? At Connecticut College, for instance, what started as one case ended up causing the entire school to go remote. Outbreaks such as this and those being experienced by other universities such like Duke, are not random or accidental. These outbreaks are related to high-density indoor activities, where even vaccinated people who spend a number of hours together without wearing masks become infected. Such an outbreak can happen anywhere and happen fast.

The Delta variant is much more contagious because it can generate up to 1200 times the amount of virus in nasal passages compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 variant. We are seeing both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases, which is why testing remains essential. Those testing positive are fully vaccinated, which means that their odds for severe illness are greatly reduced. Even if you are vaccinated, symptoms still can be serious, and if you test positive, you will need to isolate for at least 10 days, which would be both disruptive and stressful for you.

What Tufts is doing

We are increasing the frequency of surveillance testing for all undergraduate students to twice per week starting tomorrow. Graduate student testing frequency is not changing at this time. Please test on the days that you are scheduled. Other changes in COVID policies and procedures may be coming soon. You will hear from us via email should things change. Please monitor the university’s coronavirus website for the latest policies.

What you can do

There are a number of things that you can do.

If you have any symptoms, do not come to class or campus. Vaccinated individuals that develop symptoms of COVID (allergy-like symptoms, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, or shortness of breath) must be tested again right away. Even if you think it is just a common cold, do not come to class or campus. Get tested immediately.

Wear a mask outdoors when in large gatherings. A mask is required if you are attending any outdoor event where 100 or more people are present.

Wear a mask indoors--even off campus. Wearing a mask has been proven to be one of the best methods of prevention.

Avoid large indoor gatherings off campus. Avoid or significantly limit your attendance at indoor gatherings off campus, such as in parties, nightclubs, or bars.

Final thoughts

We ask you to be cautious and exercise good judgement. If the number of positive tests continues to rise, we may have to reinstate restrictions on in-person campus events and student organization activities. We have all worked very hard to be here this fall, and hopefully by collectively making good choices we can avoid having to limit how we engage with one another. Be mindful that the decisions you make during this ongoing health crisis will influence both your own outcome and also those of the Tufts community and our host communities of Medford, Somerville, and Boston.

We will share additional information when we have it. Kindly refrain from responding to this message or calling our offices about it. We greatly appreciate your understanding and consideration.

With all best wishes for the start of your semester,

Michael R. Jordan, MD, MPH
University Infection Control Health Director

Camille Lizarríbar, JD, PhD
Dean of Student Affairs and Chief Student Affairs Officer for AS&E