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Heightened Restrictions to Continue through Remainder of B-Term/Fall Semester

November 24, 2020

Dear WPI Community,

This week, as the holiday season begins, I am most thankful that our community has come together to support one another and advance the educational goals of our students during this unprecedented time. Thank you for everything you’ve done to help us get here. I know it’s difficult not being able to gather with friends and families as we normally do at this time of year, and that keeping spirits up in the midst of this pandemic isn’t easy. I sincerely hope that you, your family—wherever they may be—and your friends are enjoying good physical and mental health. 

Last week, in response to a concerning uptick in positive COVID-19 test results within our own community, we announced new heightened restrictions to campus operations until at least November 30, when classes resume for the final two weeks of the term/semester. I’m writing to let you know that these restrictions will continue through the end of B-Term/fall semester. 

While numbers haven’t continued to climb since the peak of positive cases a week ago, WPI is still seeing a steady pace of positive test results within our community, and our isolation and quarantine spaces remain more occupied than we would need in order to lift restrictions. With the potential for COVID cases to increase nationwide due to Thanksgiving gatherings, it stands to reason that WPI’s own risk for infection will remain high for the final two weeks of fall classes. Because positive cases take about a week or more to show up after exposure, anyone infected over the Thanksgiving break would likely test positive later in the week of Nov. 30. If students were to test positive, they would need to isolate for two weeks, which could prevent them from traveling home at the end of the term. We want all our students to be able to travel home safely to celebrate the December holidays with their families; therefore the Health Services and CERT teams have recommended that we continue with the heightened restrictions on campus through the end of the term/semester.  

One additional factor that impacted our decision is the delay in receiving test results from the Broad Institute over the past week. Our campus-wide testing is key to the rapid detection and isolation of people who become infected with COVID, and to ensuring any close contacts are quarantined. The delay in results increases the risk of spread in the campus community, a risk that is reduced with the heightened restrictions in place.

We know how to slow the spread of COVID-19: everyone must adhere to our health and safety procedures and protocols. I know that “pandemic fatigue” is real, but increased vigilance and consistent adherence to health and safety protocols—on campus and off, and in every part of our lives—will enable us to stay safe, healthy, and together.

So, please, keep wearing your mask, watching your distance (six feet at all times), washing your hands, and keeping your areas clean. Use the Symptom Tracker daily and continue with routine testing. Stay in your residence hall or home if you don’t feel well. Don’t host or attend visits, meetings, social events, gatherings, or parties – on or off campus. We know the virus is being spread through gatherings—and they don’t need to be large. We cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid them. 

Through the end of B-Term/fall semester, students should continue to stay in their residence hall or off-campus dwellings, except to …

  • attend classes, study in the library or designated study space, or perform work in a lab,
  • pick up food,
  • go outside for physically distanced exercise,
  • seek medical care,
  • participate in COVID testing, or
  • go to or from employment.

The We Are WPI website continues to be the best place for current information about the university’s response to this pandemic. Our COVID-19 dashboard is updated every weekday at 4 pm, with the exception of Thursday and Friday this week, due to the holiday.

Please continue to support one another during this unprecedented time. Stay strong and be kind. 

We will get through this with science, grit, and diligence. I have every confidence we have what it takes to come through this together and stronger. I am thankful for each and every member of this great community.