Tufts University stood firm Monday on its plan to reopen for on-campus classes in the fall, insisting that its testing and quarantine protocols are sufficient to keep students safe from the coronavirus, as mayors of the two communities the school straddles asked it to reconsider.
Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn asked Tufts President Anthony Monaco in a letter to reassess in response to “the recent uptrend in daily confirmed COVID-19 positive cases and transmission rates in Massachusetts and the Northeast in the last month.”
“We ask you to reconsider your reopening plan and provide greater clarity on specific protocols because of overwhelming evidence regarding transmission rates, asymptomatic infections, lethality, and the impacts of the virus in densely populated communities, such as Somerville and Medford,” Curtatone and Lungo-Koehn said in the letter.
But Tufts said it will stick to its plan, which includes staggered arrival times for students depending on whether they live within or outside of New England, coronavirus testing and quarantine for all students arriving on campus, and twice-weekly testing throughout the semester.
“Our comprehensive plan for re-opening, which is based on the work and guidance of medical and scientific experts, protects the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and the residents of our host communities, and goes above and beyond all local, state and federal guidelines for reopening higher education,” Patrick Collins, a Tufts spokesman, said in a statement.
Any student who tests positive will be isolated and monitored inside “on-campus modular residential units,” whether they live off-campus or in dormitories, he said. Tests will be processed by The Broad Institute, which expects to return results within 24 hours, he said.
The university will also hand out face masks and conduct an awareness campaign to help make mask-wearing and social distancing the norm for campus interactions, he said.
“As we have since March, we look forward to continuing to work closely with local officials to discuss our reopening plans and to address any questions or concerns they may have,” Collins said. “We look forward to finding new ways to partner with our host communities as we continue to navigate through this pandemic.”