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March 6 COVID-19 Update: Travel guidance, contingency planning, and research guidance

| Category:
Announcement
To:
Faculty and Staff, All Campuses

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As you know, the University is actively monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and planning for a wide range of contingencies. At all times and for all decisions, we are guided by our commitment to the health, well-being, and safety of our community. I have convened a number of working groups that are meeting regularly to prepare guidance and planning in key areas related to the mission of the University. Specifically, there are groups working on operational, research, academic, and clinical continuity; student life; and health. An additional working group, communications, aims to make sure that the community is provided relevant information in a timely manner. 

Toward that end, beginning with this message, the University will be sharing, at least weekly, an email summarizing coronavirus-related guidance and decisions. This message will be in addition to any urgent emails that will be sent in the interim as circumstances evolve.

To ensure that any critical information reaches you quickly, please sign up for TuftsAlert if you haven’t already. This emergency alert system, designed to provide the community with urgent updates, may be helpful beyond the present situation to ensure you have information that is critical to your safety.

Travel Updates

On March 5, Tufts released updated travel guidance, which should be reviewed by all individuals traveling internationally, both inbound and outbound from the University.

  • From now until further notice, all travel by students, faculty, and staff on university-related or funded business to countries with a CDC Level 3 travel warning for COVID-19 (currently China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, though this situation is expected to change quickly) is prohibited.
  • University-supported travel to other international destinations over spring break for co-curricular (e.g., student treks) and non-credit bearing student research is suspended, although we expect very few groups to be affected. Further guidance on summer programming will be forthcoming soon.
  • Until further notice, all faculty and staff will be required to register any University-connected or sponsored international travel with the Tufts Travel Registry. Students are already required to register their University-connected or supported international travel with the Travel Registry and should continue to do so. Please do not enter personal or domestic travel in the registry.
  • For those arriving from CDC Level 3 warning countries - currently China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, though this situation could change quickly - Tufts prohibits faculty, students, staff, and visitors from returning to campus, even if symptom-free, for 14 days; they must self-quarantine in accordance with the guidance issued by the CDC. Additional requirements apply to inbound travelers who arrive on campus following this 14-day self-quarantine. 
  • There is currently no formal restriction on University-related domestic travel, but we know this is an area of concern, and there may be further guidance on this as the situation develops.
  • We also know there are concerns about personal travel. While the University cannot restrict personal travel, we recommend monitoring CDC warnings and avoiding both domestic and international destinations where COVID-19 is prevalent.

Again, please see the full travel guidance update as shared on March 5 for additional details.

Contingency Planning

Faculty on all campuses have been asked to prepare for the possibility that COVID-19 will begin to have a more direct impact on face-to-face classes in the form of student and/or faculty absences due to travel restrictions, illness, or other circumstances. This includes planning for the possibility that the University could be forced to suspend face-to-face classes before the end of the spring semester. Such planning remains entirely precautionary. Faculty have been provided with guidance to ensure instructional continuity for the spring semester and meet the needs of our students under a variety of potential circumstances.

We continue to hope that face-to-face classes during the spring semester are not disrupted. Any updates to academic policies, procedures, or schedules will be communicated to the Tufts community promptly. In the meantime, we thank faculty, as well as students and staff, for their ingenuity, flexibility, and commitment in the coming weeks should the spread of COVID-19 require us to make alternative arrangements for spring 2020.

Research Guidance

The health and safety of our faculty, staff and students engaged in research is paramount. Due to the spread of COVID-19, companies that provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as disposable gloves, face masks, N95 respirator masks, and lab coats/gowns, may struggle to keep up with global demand. Therefore, the Tufts research community should:

  • Secure your stocks of PPE. Make sure the PPE is in a locked cabinet or room that is accessible to personnel who need it.
  • Conserve PPE. While disposable PPE should not be reused, evaluate whether activities can be planned so that the number of entries into a lab is reduced, thereby reducing the amount of disposable PPE that is needed.
  • Keep track of supplies and plan ahead. Do not wait until you are nearly out of PPE to re-order. If your order cannot be filled or if shipments are delayed, be prepared to stop working until PPE can be obtained.
  • Utilize reusable respirators. Disposable respirators, such as N95 respirator masks, may be in short supply. Before your supply runs out, consider purchasing PAPRs, which are battery-powered reusable respirators.
  • Remember that face masks are not respirators. You cannot substitute an N95 respirator mask with a face mask. If you need respiratory protection, you need a respirator.
  • Face shields may be an adequate substitute for a face mask in certain situations. Both provide protection from droplets, depending on the procedure.
  • Remember that disinfection and hand hygiene are an important part of biosafety and infection control. Be sure that you have plenty of disinfectant, hand soap and hand sanitizer (if used) in stock, since these supplies may also become impacted. 

Please note: This information is only for those working in research labs, not those in a clinical setting.

Please contact Biosafety (biosafety@tufts.edu) in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research if you are unable to obtain PPE, disinfectant, hand soap or hand sanitizer and need advice on appropriate safety precautions for your work.

Also remember that altering your safety procedures or PPE requires approval. Please contact Biosafety (biosafety@tufts.edu) before making any changes to determine whether the potential changes are appropriate. 

Precautions and Medical Assistance

Per the latest CDC recommendation, people should seek medical care if they have been in a country with sustained community  transmission (level 3 risk assessment) in the past 14 days, OR had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection and develop symptoms of fever and cough. For more information and resources, please see “Medical Assistance” under “Additional Information” on the Community and Travel Guidance landing page.

To help prevent the spread of illness, including the flu and common cold:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer) with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your cough with your upper sleeve or elbow to keep germs from spreading.
  • Avoid sharing drinks, food, and/or cigarettes or vaping products.
  • If you share a room or apartment with someone who is sick, try to stay at least 6 feet away to prevent exposure through coughing.

Additional guidance for prevention can be found on the CDC website.

We recognize that the impact of COVID-19 is not just physical, and we want to make sure that everyone is aware of support services available. Counseling resources are available through Counseling and Mental Health Services on the Medford/Somerville and Boston SMFA campuses, and through Talk One2One Student Assistance Program on the Health Sciences campuses. Students can also get support through BetterHelp, iHope, and the University Chaplaincy. Faculty and staff may seek support through the Tufts Employee Assistance Program at any time.

Thank you for your attention to this message, and for your continued vigilance as our community responds to these trying circumstances.

Mike Howard

Executive Vice President

For the latest updates and guidance from Tufts University, please visit go.tufts.edu/coronavirus