The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has temporarily banned events with more than 150 people, university President L. Rafael Reif announced Thursday in a letter to the campus community that outlined several new steps taken in response to growing concerns about coronavirus.
MIT is canceling Campus Preview Weekend scheduled for April 16-19 and postponing until June the MIT Excellence Awards, and there will be new restrictions on travel and events at least until May 15, when final exams begin, according to a copy of the letter posted on the MIT website.
Reif said the risk of COVID-19 infection at MIT is low, but “global hotspots shift, and the contagion pattern is not well understood. With that uncertainty, we need to make prudent choices to protect the health of our own community and the broader communities we belong to, without creating unnecessary disruptions to the normal pursuit of our educational and research mission.”
The policies will require plans to be adjusted, but there is a process for seeking an exception to the restrictions in special cases, Reif wrote.
The new rules temporarily ban international travel on school business and discourage personal travel overseas. The university is urging faculty and students to reconsider any domestic travel plans and explore ways to participate in events or meetings remotely. Even spring break, scheduled to start March 23, may be disrupted.
“We know many students plan travel for spring break," the policy document states. "We urge you to weigh the risks and potential consequences for yourself and others. If you travel to any nation where the [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reports ‘widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission’ of COVID-19, you will not be permitted to complete your required two-week self-quarantine on campus.”
Visitors who have been to countries identified by the CDC as high-risk — which currently includes China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran — also are barred from campus until they complete a 14-day self-quarantine.
Visitors who haven’t been to high-risk areas are welcome, MIT said, but it encouraged campus community members to cancel or reschedule any program for K-12 students or meeting of people over age 60 through the end of the semester. The administration also asked event planners to consider inviting fewer attendees, finding larger venues, and enabling remote participation.
MIT also encourages members of the campus community to embrace precautions such as handwashing and to consider enhanced cleaning before and after events.