Covid-19 Info Center

Returning to work on campus FAQ

Working to keep you healthy
Campus access
Before you return: testing and attestations
Working on campus
Staffing and resources

Most recent update: July 7, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is an evolving situation that requires all of us to be alert and adaptable.

As some members of our community prepare to return to campus, the below FAQs offer guidance from MIT Medical, MIT Human Resources, MIT Facilities, and MIT Information Systems and Technology (IS&T). While this guidance is initially meant to inform the return of research staff starting on June 15, 2020, it will apply broadly to all staff, faculty, and students as they return to campus.

Guiding principles

  • Excellence in MIT's mission: As before the pandemic, MIT remains dedicated to building a better world through education, research, and innovation.
  • Community health and wellbeing: The safety of MIT students, faculty, and staff remains a top priority. However, with their return, some will inevitably become sick while on campus.
  • The new normal is different: For the time being, the on-campus experience will be significantly different than it was before the pandemic.
  • Expert guidance: We are informed by science, the medical experts, and the public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local guidelines.
  • Personal accountability for clean-up and hygiene: The safety of the community depends on each individual’s personal hygiene and adoption of the new Covid-related procedures and principles. Each individual will be asked to assume some responsibility for this. The new on-campus dynamic does not eliminate the basic premise that community wellbeing depends on mutual respect and common sense.
  • Clear communications: We strive to convey all of the critical information about our recommendations clearly and frequently.
  • Preserving flexibility: We are faced with uncertain developments in a rapidly changing environment, and this requires us to formulate action plans that allow us to change course if necessary.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion: In formulating plans, we consider the needs of all members of our community and strive to support those needs with compassion, empathy, and respect. If you have any concerns, please refer to How to Report Compliance Concerns  for guidance. You may also confidentially share concerns at the MIT Hotline website.

General campus-wide policies

  • Face coverings must be worn at all times while on campus, per order of the City of Cambridge. During the summer months (through September 22, 2020), face coverings may be removed temporarily when you are outdoors and able to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from other people. Please review the PPE policy statement for guidelines and best practices.
  • MIT IDs should be visible while on campus. These can be worn on a lanyard, for example.
  • Handwashing or use of hand sanitizer is required upon arrival at MIT and recommended frequently thereafter.
  • Whenever possible, use cleaning supplies to disinfect each space you use (particularly high-touch surfaces such as table tops, light switches, chair arms, etc.) upon arrival (“clean in”) and upon departure (“clean out”).

Working to keep you healthy

What is the cleaning regimen for common areas in MIT buildings on campus?

All common areas are cleaned and disinfected once a day, Monday through Friday. As the Institute begins to open buildings, Custodial Services will add:

  • A complete cleaning on Saturday of all buildings that are routinely cleaned Monday through Friday.
  • An additional cleaning (Monday through Friday) of all high-touch surfaces (handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, etc.) in all common areas in all buildings (main corridors, main lobbies, elevators, restrooms).
  • Additional cleaning in the Stata student street and the Infinite Corridor throughout the day, Monday through Friday.
  • Whenever possible, individual users should clean the high-touch surfaces they interact with during the day before and after use (i.e., restroom touch points, elevator buttons, conference room tables and chairs, printer and copier buttons, etc.). MIT is working to make cleaning materials available for this purpose. Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after contacting any high-touch surfaces.

Buildings will be phased into the new cleaning protocols in alignment with the schedule of research ramp-up.

Are the health and safety protocols different for researchers working in MIT labs?

Yes. If you are working in a lab on campus, you need to review the detailed protocols provided on the Covid-19 page of the Office of the Vice President for Research. You will also want to review the PPE policy statement from EHS.

Will hand sanitizer be available in common areas?

MIT will provide hand sanitizer at the entrances of MIT buildings. Check with your DLC’s administrative officer about what other cleaning supplies are available for staff in your area.

What are the cleaning protocols for a one-person MIT office or cubicle?

MIT Custodial Services staff will empty trash and vacuum in your personal office or cubicle, but they will not touch your desk, chair, work surfaces, keyboards, monitors, etc. Whenever possible, you should wipe down high-touch surfaces in your personal workspace. Check with your DLC’s administrative officer about availability of cleaning supplies in your area. 

Will I be expected to do any cleaning in my personal office or cubicle myself?

Yes. Whenever possible, you should wipe down high-touch surfaces in your personal workspace (desk, chair, work surfaces, keyboards, monitors, phones, cabinet and drawer handles, light fixtures and switches, staplers and tape dispensers, etc.), at a minimum when you arrive and when you leave. Check with your DLC’s administrative officer to learn what cleaning supplies are available in your area and determine the best approach for keeping your personal workspace clean.

What are the health and safety protocols for elevators?

Custodial Services staff will clean and disinfect elevators once a day, Monday through Friday, with an additional cleaning on Saturday. High-touch surfaces in elevators will be cleaned and disinfected twice a day by custodians, Monday through Friday.

  • Whenever possible, individual users should wipe down high-touch surfaces before and after use. MIT is working to make cleaning materials available for this purpose.
  • If possible, avoid using elevators and use the stairs instead. If you do use an elevator, be aware of new maximum occupancy rules posted and wait for others to exit the elevator before entering. Floor decals will be installed to show individuals where to stand while in the elevator or while waiting for the elevator.
What are the health and safety protocols for restrooms?

Custodial Services staff will clean and disinfect restrooms twice a day, Monday through Friday, with an additional cleaning on Saturday. 

  • Be sure to wash your hands upon entry and wash hands again upon exit.
  • Take care to ensure that the toilet has been flushed completely before you leave the stall.
  • Be mindful of physical distancing in all spaces, including restrooms, and try not to overcrowd a restroom. Keep an eye out for any new DLC practices around restroom capacity.
What are the health and safety protocols for conference rooms?

Custodial Services staff will clean and disinfect conference rooms once a day, Monday through Friday, with an additional cleaning on Saturday.

  • Try to avoid using conference rooms. If possible, meetings should be held via videoconferencing rather than in person, even if everyone is in the same building. 
  • If you do use a conference room, here are some guidelines:
    • Whenever possible, individual users should clean the conference room before and after they use the room, wiping down high-touch surfaces (the table, chair arms, light switches, equipment like touch screens, phones, and white board markers, etc.) before and after use. Check with your DLC’s administrative officer about availability of cleaning supplies in your area for this purpose. 
    • Be aware of each conference room’s new lowered capacity limit.
    • Users must wear face coverings and maintain a standard 6-foot distance between each other.
    • When you leave the conference room, leave the doors open to increase ventilation. 
    • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using a conference room.
How will MIT clean and disinfect an area that was used by someone diagnosed with Covid-19?

If an individual in an MIT building is suspected of having Covid-19 (is being tested or is awaiting results) or has been confirmed positive, the MIT Custodial Services team will arrange for a deep cleaning and disinfection of the spaces around the individual’s workstation (and/or other spaces in the building as necessary). Per CDC guidance, anyone who had close contact with that individual (within six feet) for 15 minutes or more will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. If you have symptoms, please call the MIT Medical Covid hotline: 617-253-4865.

What is the current cleaning regimen for MIT shuttles?

Currently, the MIT shuttle vehicles are cleaned once a day using a Covid-approved fogging process along with enhanced cleaning procedures. In addition, shuttle drivers clean high-touch surfaces at every shift change. 

What other safety precautions are in place on the MIT shuttles?

Each shuttle will be equipped with signage advising passengers to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from each other, to fill seats starting in the back and progressing toward the front, and to disembark from the front seats first (then progress toward the back). Seat decals have been posted to prevent passengers from using some seats and guide them to seats that are at a safe distance from each other. Shuttle drivers are wearing face coverings and gloves, and all passengers must wear face coverings. Plastic shields are being installed between the drivers and passengers and hand sanitizer is available in each vehicle. Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after contacting high-touch surfaces, including surfaces in shuttles.

I work in a leased building. What is MIT doing to ensure that the property manager is creating a safe working environment within the building?

On behalf of our MIT units located in leased spaces, the Office of the Associate Provost is in communication with landlords and property managers to review their re-entry guidelines and preparations, including confirmation of:

  • Enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols, including disinfection of high-touch surfaces and areas.
  • New protocols for building access, circulation, and entry/exit points.
  • Signage for wayfinding and to explain health/safety procedures.
What is MIT doing to reinforce wearing face coverings, increasing personal hygiene measures, and maintaining physical distance?

MIT has created and is distributing and/or installing a range of signage (door signs, wall signs, table tents, floor decals, AV screen images, flyers, etc.) with messaging that reinforces the health and safety protocols for each specific area or location. The Department of Facilities is installing signs in common areas (such as main entrance doors, elevators, restrooms, outside spaces) and is providing signage templates to DLCs. Each DLC is responsible for posting clear signage in areas the DLC manages. Visit the Covid signage template page to download and print signs.

What is MIT doing to minimize crossing paths with others when walking around campus?

MIT is posting signs inside buildings and throughout outside spaces that strongly encourage individuals to maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings, refrain from gathering in groups, etc. The Office of Campus Planning is evaluating the possibility of installing directional (one-way) signage in corridors and stairwells to provide guidance on walking paths while maintaining safe, accessible routes.

What is MIT doing to minimize the amount of people in smaller areas like elevators, bathrooms, break/conference rooms, etc.?

Each DLC is responsible for determining maximum occupancy in that DLC’s common spaces such as conference rooms, kitchens, break rooms, etc., based to some extent on the size of the common area. The current policy for bathroom occupancy across campus is one person per bathroom. The Department of Facilities is installing signs in common areas (such as main entrance doors, elevators, restrooms, outside spaces) and is providing signage templates to DLCs. Each DLC is responsible for posting clear signage in areas the DLC manages. Visit the Covid signage template page to download and print signs.

Campus access

How will I know when I can/should come back to campus?

Supervisors will inform staff members of the confirmed dates for returning to labs and offices on campus. Work that can be done remotely should continue to be done remotely. Only individuals who are informed that they may come to campus may do so. Many researchers and other staff will not return to campus at this point, and others will be able to significantly reduce their on-campus time compared to normal conditions. The evolving health risk will dictate when and how much this practice can be relaxed. 

Once my supervisor confirms that I am invited to work on campus, what steps must I take in order to access campus buildings?

After approving you to work on campus, your supervisor must enter your name into the Covid Access management application, listing which campus building(s) you should be permitted to enter. You will receive an email with details once this is done. To access approved campus buildings, you must meet the following requirements, through the Covid Pass app:

  • Sign a form acknowledging risks of return and requirements to be on campus. (Note that the decision to return to campus is fully voluntary for individuals who have not been designated by MIT as essential employees.)
  • Complete required training.
  • Comply with MIT Medical testing requirements.
  • Obtain a 25-hour campus access pass by successfully completing and submitting your daily health attestation. (Note that you need to complete a daily health attestation each day you plan to come to campus. It is advised that you do this before leaving home.)

Note that only those who have had their names and building(s) added to the system by a supervisor will be able to access the Covid Pass application. More detailed information about the Covid Pass app is available in the next section: Before you return: testing and attestations.

If you do not obtain a daily pass, you will not be able to get into a building using your MIT ID access card.

I have completed the Covid Pass process, and I have been cleared to access my building. Can I enter through any door?

No. For everyone’s health and safety, MIT has divided the campus into several color-coded building clusters and has established a limited number of building access points for each cluster. Your ID will be activated through the Covid Pass system to provide you with access only to the building clusters that contain the buildings you need to access.

View this map to identify which cluster your building is in and which access points are available for that cluster. Your ID card will be activated to work at the card readers for any access points for your designated cluster (e.g., to access Building 5, you can use the access points at Building 1 or Lobby 7). Note that while access points to enter buildings are specific and marked, all normal building exits will remain functional and usable. Do not provide building access to anyone who has not been authorized to return or has not completed the requirements to return.

I need to pass from my building cluster into a different building cluster for work purposes. Can I use an interior path to go from one cluster to the other?

To pass from one building cluster to a different building cluster, you should exit your building cluster and enter the other cluster through a designated access point for that cluster. If these clusters share a boundary, and you are approved to work in a building in the adjacent cluster, you may cross from one to the other using interior pathways. This is designed to minimize indoor transit among researchers and facilitate contact tracing as needed. View a map of the clusters and access points. Be sure that your supervisor has requested access permissions through the Covid Access management application for all buildings you need to access.

I park in the Stata garage, but I do not work in Stata. Will I have access to the garage?

Yes. If you park in the Stata garage (Building 32), you will be directed to proceed to the first-floor level and exit through one of two doors indicated by signs and barriers. You can then enter your building cluster at one of its designated campus access points. Note that all campus parking is open and free throughout the summer.

Up until now, I have had campus access through Limited Access Plan (LAP). Will I continue to have campus access?

Yes, you will maintain your access if you are an approved individual on the LAP lists. Note that no new LAP access will be granted as new requests will now be managed through the Covid Pass system. LAP access will be retired on July 15, and individuals on the LAP list will be converted to the Covid Pass system.

Who do I contact to get access to specific buildings?

Contact your supervisor, who must enter your name and which building(s) you are allowed to access into the Covid Access management application. More detailed information about the Covid Pass app is available in the next section: Before you return: testing and attestations.

  • Staff members should contact their supervisor.
  • Students, postdocs, and research scientists should contact their PI, lab group leader, or DLC headquarters.
  • Faculty members should contact their department head or DLC headquarters.
  • School or office administrative staff team members should contact their dean or office headquarters.
  • Lab or center staff should contact their lab or center headquarters.
I’m a supervisor. How do I request access to MIT buildings for individuals in my area?

Visit the Covid Access management application to arrange building access for individuals in your area. The individuals will then receive an email instructing them to visit the Covid Pass site.

Any supervisor or administrator who is unsure about how to resolve an access request may email physicalsecurity@mit.edu.

I’m a gatekeeper for my department. Will I have the ability to manage interior door access?

Yes. Gatekeeper access controls for interior door access is being restored by Monday, June 15, at 8:00 a.m. Note that the gatekeeper role does not apply to exterior door entry, which will be managed through the Covid Access process. Gatekeepers will be able to monitor interior door access but will not be able to remotely unlock doors as MIT operates under the new Covid access control guidelines.

I’ve swiped my MIT ID card at my building entrance, and the door remains locked. What should I do?

Take the following steps:

  • Make sure that you are using the designated access point for your area rather than another exterior door.
  • Have you completed your “back to campus” forms on the Covid Pass site?
  • Have you completed your daily health attestation on the Covid Pass site?
  • Make sure that you are designated for the appropriate building(s); contact your supervisor or administrative officer.
  • If you have a valid Covid Pass and appropriate building designation and are still experiencing problems getting into your building, email physicalsecurity@mit.edu.
Can an employee stay home if they have general concerns about being exposed to the virus?

We recognize that there are unique issues for staff who have underlying conditions or whose family members have conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. Concerned staff are encouraged to speak directly with their manager or with their HR departmental contact or their human resources officer; managers who have questions should contact their local HR departmental contact or human resources officer

Is there any support for staff who feel uncomfortable returning to on-campus work? For example, I’m concerned about getting to campus safely — I won’t be comfortable taking public transportation for a while.

MIT’s phased approach to reopening campus emphasizes the health and safety of the community. DLCs are encouraged to continue remote work where it is possible. In its planning, MIT is distinguishing between:

  1. Work that can only be done on-site.
  2. Work that is much better done on-site.
  3. Work that is somewhat better done on-site.
  4. Work that can be done nearly as well (or better) remotely.

If the work falls into categories 1 and 2, staff may be required to come to work. We are looking at staggered shifts to avoid the busiest times on public transportation. We encourage employees who believe that their work falls into categories 3 or 4 to talk to their manager. If the manager disagrees, we encourage them to contact someone else in the DLC or their human resources officer. We are all trying hard to work through these types of questions with compassion and flexibility, and we are currently reviewing them on a case-by-case basis.

Note that parking fees will be waived for MIT students, faculty, and staff through September 1, at which point this temporary measure will be reevaluated.

What is the protocol for vendors, contractors, and suppliers (VCS) to access campus buildings to support approved core activities and campus research ramp-up plans?

The DLC sponsoring a VCS is responsible for:

  • Arranging required access.
  • Confirming health checks are in place.
  • Confirming that the VCS adheres to MIT Covid policies as well as local and state guidance or orders.

To arrange access, the DLC sponsor must:

  • Email physicalsecurity@mit.edu to request that the VCS be added to MIT’s approved vendor list. (Note: Some VCS with MIT ID cards/numbers have already been added to MIT’s approved vendor list.)
  • Confirm that the VCS conducts a daily health check attestation. (See below.)
  • If the vendor has passed the health check: Meet the VCS employees at the designated access point for the area of campus where the VCS will work and escort them to their work site within the building. (View map of access points).
  • If the vendor did not pass the daily health check: Do not allow the vendor on campus until they provide clearance from their medical provider.
  • Maintain electronic records of VCS visits so that department heads and administrative officers can have immediate access if contact tracing is needed.
I have a vendor, contractor, or supplier (VCS) coming to campus. How do I confirm their daily health check?

There are two options for the sponsoring DLC to confirm VCS health checks:

  • The DLC sponsor confirms via email with a VCS company that daily health checks are completed for their staff and that records are maintained in accordance with state and local guidance or orders.
  • If the VCS company does not have a heath check process in place, the DLC sponsor requests individual VCS employees to complete the MIT daily health check form and email it to the DLC sponsor daily.

In both cases, any VCS with self-reported symptoms will not be allowed on campus without prior clearance from their medical provider.

In both cases, the primary MIT contact must:

  • Meet the VCS employee at the designated access point for the area of campus where the VCS will work and escort them to their work site within the building (View map of access points).
  • Keep electronic records of VCS visits and health checks so that department heads and administrative officers can have immediate access to the information if contact tracing is needed.

View a detailed summary of the VCS Access protocol.

Before you return: testing and attestations

What are the health testing requirements and processes for those returning to campus?

Everyone returning to campus and using campus facilities is required to be tested for Covid-19 before returning to work. You will be directed to be tested once you complete the acknowledgement step in the Covid Pass application (see info below) for the first time.

Where can I find my test results?

Results will appear in the Covid Pass app/website in the Medical Test section.

Do I need to take any training before coming back to campus?

Training is required to return to campus. You will be directed to required training once you complete the acknowledgement step in the Covid Pass application (see info below) for the first time, or by your supervisor. Training can also be accessed direct in the Atlas Learning Center.

What is the MIT Covid Pass application?

The MIT Covid Pass application will enable those approved to return to working on campus to complete both one-time and daily requirements for gaining access to approved campus buildings. 

How do I find the MIT Covid Pass application?

Once your supervisor has entered your name and approved building(s) into the application, you will receive an email with the all the details and a link to the application. A new mobile application including the daily health attestation feature will be made available soon for iOS and Android devices. 

The MIT Covid Pass application says: "You do not have access to any MIT buildings. Please contact your department for any questions." Why?

Your supervisor must first visit the application and enter your name and which building(s) you are allowed to access.

The MIT Covid Pass application says I am disqualified from accessing MIT facilities but won't let me try again. What can I do?

MIT Medical will contact you to review your condition. You will not be able to submit a new attestation until you have been cleared by MIT Medical.

I'm not sure of my approval status for today. How can I check?

Visit the MIT Covid Pass application and authenticate using Touchstone to see your current approval status. You can also check your email for your approval message (subject line: “Health attestation submitted”). You can also submit the attestation again to ensure your access is cleared for the next 25 hours.

How do I submit my attestation if I do not have access to a computer or phone?

Contact your supervisor to arrange to have a delegate submit your attestation on your behalf.

What do I do if I have questions about using the MIT Covid Pass application?

Contact your supervisor, or email covidapps-help@mit.edu.

When does my approval to be on campus expire?

Approval expires 25 hours after successful submission using the MIT Covid Pass application.

I have been residing outside of Massachusetts and am just returning to the state. Is there a special process for me if I am returning to campus?

Yes, but the process depends on whether you are an MIT student or not.

  • For MIT graduate students: MIT Medical has determined that you will require two tests within a seven-day period upon your return. You should come to MIT Medical immediately for a test at one of the times when testing is available. Then you should self-isolate for seven days. After seven days, you should come back to MIT Medical for a second test. You will be able access campus buildings while you are awaiting your second test result.
  • For non-students: Following your arrival to Massachusetts, you should self-isolate for at least seven days. After seven days, you should come to MIT Medical for a test at one of the times when testing is available. You will be able access campus buildings while you are awaiting your test result.
I commute from New Hampshire (or another neighboring state) to get to MIT. How does this affect the requirement for testing?

Commuters from out of state are exempt from the seven-day quarantine rule. You are treated as someone who lives in the Commonwealth and will need a single test before returning to work. 

I took a day trip to Rhode Island last weekend and took appropriate precautions (wore a mask, physically distanced, etc.). I otherwise have been residing in Massachusetts. Do I need to self-isolate for a week before being tested?

No, self-isolation for seven days is not necessary under those circumstances. 

When are Covid-19 tests available at MIT Medical?

Testing is available at MIT Medical for asymptomatic individuals looking to return to work on Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

What do I need to know before I am tested at MIT Medical?

Be aware of the following:

  • When you arrive, wear a mask and maintain six feet of physical distancing from others at all times.
  • Come into the Building E25 lobby to check in for your test. Enter from the plaza adjacent to Building E15 (Wiesner Building). You will not need to enter MIT Medical (E23) to access testing.
  • The test involves swabbing the inside of both nostrils. The process takes about a minute and there is very little discomfort.
  • Please do not park in the MIT Medical parking lot unless you require disability parking. Currently, you may park for free with your MIT ID at any other MIT parking lot. The nearest large parking garage to MIT Medical is the Hermann Garage at Sloan; the smaller E51 lot is also conveniently located.
  • You will need to wait outdoors before entering the testing site. Please dress appropriately.

NOTE: Several steps are required to enter the testing site. If this is a problem for you, contact covid_testing@med.mit.edu and we will make other arrangements to have you tested.

Do I need to schedule an appointment to get tested, or can I just walk-in to be tested?

You do not need to schedule an appointment if you need to be tested before returning to work. MIT Medical has walk-in testing available for eligible individuals Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

If you have questions about testing, email covid_testing@med.mit.edu.

When will I be able to find out my test results?

Results are available within 48 hours via the Covid Pass app.

Who receives the test results? And how will this information be transmitted to the access app?

Your test results are protected medical information. Only you and MIT Medical will have access to your test results. A positive result will cause you to be denied access to campus. However, you may be denied access to campus through the app for a number of other reasons ranging from contact with an infected individual to coming down with a fever or cough.

Am I required to tell MIT that I have been diagnosed with Covid-19?

You are not required to tell MIT if you have been diagnosed with Covid-19. However, doing so allows MIT Medical to perform contact tracing, which can help protect your colleagues and the rest of the community from spreading Covid-19 further. 

What happens if the test indicates positive for Covid-19?

If you receive a positive Covid-19 test, a clinician from MIT Medical will notify you shortly. You can also check the result of your test via the Covid Pass app.

How does contract tracing work? What will you tell others who work in the same research or office space as I do?

If you test positive, MIT will contact you to learn about anyone who you might have accidentally exposed to Covid-19. Those individuals may be advised to self-isolate or to get tested. You should tell your manager and coworkers if you will not be able to return to work. For contact tracing, MIT will not provide your name to the individuals you may have been in contact with, to protect your privacy. The other individuals will just be informed that they may have been exposed.  

I was disqualified from accessing MIT facilities, and MIT Medical asked me to take a test. I feel fine. Can I still come to campus while I wait for my test results?

No. If you are marked as “disqualified from accessing MIT facilities,” and you are asked to take a Covid-19 test, you are not allowed back to campus until you have a documented negative Covid-19 test as performed by MIT Medical. 

If I test positive for Covid-19, what steps do I need to take before I can come back to work?

Staying at home and getting healthy should be your number one priority. Once you feel healthy again and your symptoms have gone away, contact MIT Medical directly, and the clinicians there will work with you to determine the steps you’ll need to take before you can be cleared to return to campus. 

How do I know if I have Covid-19 or if it is just a case of seasonal allergies acting up?

It’s true that some allergy symptoms are similar to Covid-19 symptoms. This handy graphic can help you determine what you might be experiencing. Of course, you should always speak with your personal healthcare provider if you have any questions.

What testing is available at MIT Medical?

MIT Medical offers diagnostic testing (also called viral testing). It is a molecular test, or PCR test. It works by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. When someone is infected, they have this genetic material in their nose and upper throat. The test uses a sample that is collected with a swab from an area of the nasal passage where viral particles are likely to be present. 

How accurate is the test given at MIT Medical?

The genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 cannot be confused with the genetic material from other viruses, so the Covid-19 diagnostic test is highly specific. This means it almost never gives a false positive. Unfortunately, if the specimen collection is not done perfectly, or if you are in an early stage of infection or already partially recovered, your nasal-swab sample might not contain enough viral material to come back positive. There are many stories about patients who tested negative soon after their symptoms began, only to test positive on a test done later.  

However, because false negative results on diagnostic tests happen relatively often, a negative result should not give you a sense of false security. If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, it is safest to assume you are infected and act accordingly, even if your diagnostic test comes back negative.

What are antibody tests, and can I get one at MIT Medical to see if I already had Covid-19?

An antibody test is a blood test that looks for immune molecules, or antibodies, specifically targeted to fighting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 illness. An antibody test for Covid-19, if accurate, could indicate if you had previously been infected with the virus, even if you never had any symptoms.

Unfortunately, antibody tests aren’t yet reliable and MIT Medical does not currently offer antibody testing. They aren’t like pregnancy tests — a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, they are “titer tests” that indicate specific levels of antibodies in an individual’s blood. Unfortunately, we don’t know what level of antibodies might be required for immunity from reinfection. We also don’t know if people with antibodies can still spread the virus to others, even if they are immune themselves.

More problematic is that the accuracy of even these tests depends on the percentage of people in the population who have actually been exposed to the virus. At this point, where a relatively low percentage of the population is likely to have been exposed to the virus, a positive antibody test has a high probability of being incorrect and may lead to a false sense of security. 

What if I have medical questions not answered here?

MIT Medical has a series of FAQs related to Covid-19 that are updated regularly. You can also send an email to medical@mit.edu if you have general questions. Remember: Specific health-related questions are private, protected information that should only be discussed between you and your provider via phone calls or through a secure patient portal. You should never email personal medical questions to your provider or to the general medical@mit.edu address. 

Working on campus

Do I need to wear a face covering on campus, even outside?

Yes. The current campus policy is that face coverings are required on campus. During the summer months (through September 22, 2020), you may remove your face covering temporarily when you are outdoors and able to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from other people. You can also remove your face covering when consuming food or drink. More information is available on the PPE Policy Statement from EHS. 

Where can I get an MIT-provided face covering?

Supplies of face coverings are available in the lobby of Building 7 and may be available at other locations on campus. Contact your administrative officer to find out more.

Can I wear my own face covering?

Yes, you can provide your own face covering. Follow CDC guidelines in terms of making a face covering, putting it on and taking it off, and keeping it clean.

What if a coworker is not wearing a face covering?

If you are comfortable doing so, raise your concern directly with your colleague. Otherwise, you may consider informing their manager, or talking to the HR representative in your DLC or to your human resources officer. If you wish to raise the issue anonymously, you may contact the MIT Hotline.

Who is not required to wear a face covering?

Exceptions to the face covering requirement include anyone who is excused by a medical professional and anyone who has trouble breathing. Check with your DLC for area-specific exceptions (such as situations where a face covering is a safety hazard).

When I’m working in a lab or office on campus, under what circumstances can face coverings be removed? Where, for instance, can I eat lunch if face coverings are also required outdoors?

Cloth face coverings must be worn at all times on campus. During the summer months (through September 22, 2020), you may remove your face covering temporarily when you are outdoors and able to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from other people. You can also remove your face covering when consuming food or drink. Check with your area’s leadership to determine what the policy is for inside your building or lab. 

How will I know if someone I came into contact with while working at MIT was diagnosed with Covid-19?

MIT Medical performs contact tracing on all known cases of Covid-19 in the MIT community. You will be notified immediately if you are known to be potentially at risk. 

What are the recommendations for kitchens, lunchrooms, and eating?

Your DLC may decide to organize the kitchen or break room according to physical distance criteria and may have marked the floor with tape to show where people can sit while still maintaining physical distance. Because eating requires us to remove our face coverings or masks, eating together with coworkers should be avoided or, if necessary, done with especially great care. If you do choose to eat in a kitchen or break room at the same time as another person, it is recommended that you both strive to maintain physical distance.

Other recommended practices include: 

  • Wash hands before and after eating.
  • Check for signage indicating a maximum capacity for the room, and observe capacity limits.
  • If possible, clean high-touch areas before and after using them (“clean in” and “clean out”), including table and counter surfaces, chairs, etc. 
  • Bring your own food, utensils, mugs, dishes, coffee, and drink. Vending machines will not be available. 
  • Avoid high-touch items like magazines or newspapers, if they are there.
  • No shared food or drinks. Shared water dispensers are discouraged, and staff are encouraged to bring their own water. 
  • Microwaves and refrigerators should be used with great care. If possible, clean handles and buttons before and after use. Some DLCs may have more stringent policies for using food-related appliances.
  • Minimize talking (cellphone or otherwise) during eating time.
  • Don’t leave food or crumbs behind. Clean up after you have finished eating.
  • Don’t leave any items or trash behind, and don’t clean anything left behind by others.
Is anywhere on campus open to purchase food?

Campus dining services are currently unavailable to staff (except for those who live on campus). The City of Cambridge is maintaining this list of local open businesses.

Should I be worried about improving the ventilation or air flow in my work space or office?

Based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Commonwealth of MA guidance, it is clear that the most effective ways to limit the spread of Covid-19 are the safety measures our community is already taking: practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, wash hands often for a minimum of 20 seconds, clean and disinfect frequently, limit the number of people on campus, and isolate people who become infected. According to CDC workplace FAQ, “The risk of spreading the virus that causes Covid-19 through ventilation systems has not been studied, but is likely low.” 

Is MIT making any changes to ventilation systems on campus as more people come back to campus?

A dedicated team from MIT’s Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) and Facilities Engineering is reviewing ventilation strategies for each building. At a minimum, all installed ventilation systems will be operated, as they are designed to maintain indoor environmental air quality.

In buildings that are reopening, MIT is taking the following steps:

  • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly. Any systems that have been shut down will be restarted according to current guidance provided by ASHRAE.
  • Evaluate each building, including its mechanical and life safety systems, to determine if it is ready for occupancy, checking for hazards associated with prolonged facility shutdown.
  • Ensure that exhaust fans in restrooms are functional and operating at full capacity.
  • Where it’s feasible and practical, demand-control ventilation systems and filtration levels will be adjusted for the situation. 
Can we have elevator doors remain open by default when stationary, to increase ventilation in elevators, even when they aren’t in use?

Elevators are designed to stay ventilated at all times, so the air change rate is not a problem even if the elevator has been closed. Some of the more modern elevators on campus can be programmed to have doors open when parked, and MIT is in the process of programming these elevators as an additional measure.

I would prefer not to take public transportation to work, but I don’t have an MIT parking account. Can I park on campus?

Yes, as long as you have an MIT ID card. Currently, most MIT parking facilities on the Cambridge campus are free of charge and available to all MIT ID cardholders. In September, the Parking & Transportation Office will re-evaluate the policy for the fall term. All MIT ID cards have been activated to allow access to most MIT lots, including gated lots and garages, regardless of whether the individual is a current parking account holder. Off-campus lots will continue to only be available to individuals with permission for those lots. Please note that parking rules continue to apply, and signage regarding reserved spaces must be observed. In addition, the Medical, Ford (E19), and off-campus leased lots are not included in this expanded program. See the Facilities parking pages for more information.

Are the MIT shuttles running on campus?

Yes, shuttles are running. Due to the reduced number of people on campus, several of the shuttle services have transitioned to reduced schedules. MIT is monitoring shuttle usage and will ramp up the schedules as needed. More information is available on the Facilities shuttles pages.

Can I still bike to campus and use an indoor storage room for my bike?

If your building has an indoor bike storage room, it continues to be available to anyone approved for access to the building. Use the storage room as responsibly as possible, only touching surfaces as necessary and wiping down surfaces before and after you come in contact with them. Ask your administrative officer for cleaning supplies as needed. Wash your hands thoroughly after leaving the storage room. 

What changes are being made to campus mail and package delivery?

MIT Mail Services will provide services as follows and will assess needs daily and adapt as Institute recommendations require. 

  • Collection times on campus are currently limited to once daily, at noontime, Monday through Friday. Mail staff will not pick up from collection boxes in buildings that are closed. See additional information on the Mail Services page.
  • Currently, Mail Services holds packages and materials for any areas that are closed and not available for deliveries.
  • At the moment, international mail and package delivery disruptions and delays are common due to Covid-19. Please visit the USPS site for information for specific countries.
Are there any changes to services provided by Repair and Maintenance?

Repair and Maintenance staff continue to conduct scheduled and emergency work on campus. Services may be requested via Atlas Service Requests.

What changes are being made to the Atlas Service Center?

The Atlas Service Center continues to operate and is prepared to help the community navigate MIT, although most services are now offered remotely. Specific changes are:

  • MIT IDs usually picked up at the Center will continue to be mailed to home addresses. For questions, please email atlascenter@mit.edu.
  • Student and employee commuter rail and LinkPasses usually picked up at the Center or distributed via interoffice mail will continue to be mailed to home addresses or distributed via house managers. View details including actions to take if your home address has recently changed.
  • Starting June 29, in-person I-9 verifications will resume. An appointment must be scheduled ahead of time. View details at the I-9 Process at MIT website.
  • IT support and services are available by phone and email; currently, on-site walk-in and repair service is not available due to the pandemic. For more information please visit IS&T Covid-19 Updates.
  • Passport photos can be taken in person at the Atlas Center but must be scheduled ahead of time. Email atlascenter@mit.edu for an appointment.
  • Due to a recent change in Massachusetts law, notary services can now be provided remotely. To schedule notary service, visit the Atlas website.

All other services will remain remote.

Where can I go to create and print signs that are relevant to the spaces that I oversee (e.g., max number of occupants in a break room, break room rules)?

The Department of Facilities has created a suite of signs. You can download, print, and install these signs in your area. Visit the Covid signage template page to download files. Contact the Covid signage team with any questions.

Staffing and resources

When will the Technology Childcare Centers re-open, and what are the new hours of operation?

Re-opening dates and abbreviated hours of operation for each Center are included below:

  • TCC Linc: Re-opening: July 7, 2020 | Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • TCC Koch: Re-opening: July 7, 2020 | Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • TCC Stata: Re-opening: July 20, 2020 | Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • TCC Eastgate: Re-opening: July 20, 2020 | Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
What child care support options are available?

Backup Child Care: This benefit is intended to be used for backup child care purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for routine child care arrangements that are disrupted or closed due to Covid-19 (e.g., child care centers, in-home child care providers, summer camp, school, or afterschool care). You and your family have the following options for backup child care:

  • In-Home Backup Child Care: Screened and trained caregivers, who are employees of Care@Work, provide backup care at your home.
  • Personal Network Backup Child Care: Source your own in-home backup care provider (you are responsible for hiring and vetting) and receive reimbursement for a portion of the cost.
How have the CARES Act and other recent Covid regulations impacted MIT’s Flexible Spending Accounts?

The CARES Act extended the list of Health Care FSA qualified expenses to include additional over-the-counter medications and products. On April 3, 2020, MIT Benefits communicated the extension of the 2019 reimbursement window for Health Care and Dependent Care FSA claims from April 30, 2020 to May 31, 2020. Due to new regulations, that reimbursement window has now been extended to 60 days after the end of President Trump’s declaration of a national pandemic or another time period as designated by the IRS. As of now, no end date for the national pandemic has been declared. For the 2020 plan year and future plan years, the carryover amount for the Health Care FSA is $550 (the carryover for the 2019 plan year is $500). | Learn more about FSAs.

Can I reduce or cancel my Health Care and/or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account contribution?

Recent regulations allow employees to revoke an election, make a new election, or decrease or increase an existing Health Care or Dependent Care FSA election on a prospective basis only. Employees cannot reduce their election to less than what has already been contributed and/or has been reimbursed. For example, during open enrollment, you made an annual Health Care FSA election of $2,000. As of 06/01/2020 you have contributed $900 and have been reimbursed $1,300. You cannot reduce your health FSA election to less than $1,300. To reduce or cancel your Health Care or Dependent Care FSA, you will need to complete and submit the 2020 FSA Change Form to MIT Benefits at benefits@mit.edu. | Learn more about FSAs.

Where can I find more information about benefits, health insurance, and support resources?

The HR Covid-19 FAQ page will guide you to information about these areas.

What if I am experiencing anxiety or stress during this difficult time?

Many of us can relate to feelings of anxiety and fear about what the future might hold. We are increasingly concerned about our own health and the health of our loved ones, while also adjusting to new ways of living and working. MIT has resources to help you combat stress and loneliness during this challenging and confusing time.

  • MyLife Services – MIT’s employee support program – has created a Covid-19 Resource Page with specific information and resources for managing work, caregiving responsibilities, as well as one’s own mental health and well-being, during this unique time. 
  • Employees may also contact MyLife Services for individualized support; counseling and stress management sessions can be conducted via phone, video conference or text message.

Employees can also visit MyStress Tools, which offers free access to an online suite of webinars, podcasts, audio, and articles, focused on stress-management.