Dear Colleagues –

As you are likely aware from news reports, COVID-19 variants that may spread more easily than other strains are becoming more widespread in the U.S.

The coronavirus strains of concern include variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom; variant B.1.351, first identified in South Africa; and variant P.1, first identified in travelers from Brazil, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While research is ongoing to understand these variants, evidence suggests that the B.1.1.7 strain and perhaps others are able to spread more quickly and more easily than earlier variants of the virus.

This development in the progression of the pandemic serves as a reminder of the importance of continuing to follow public health guidelines designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, namely mask wearing, social distancing, and regular hand washing.

While the MBL community has done an exceptional job working together to prevent coronavirus spread and while increased availability of vaccines provides hope for the future, we must continue to be vigilant in our community-minded approach to health and safety.

Three specific areas I want to address are in-person meetings, face coverings, and symptom monitoring.

Internal in-person meetings of any size should continue to be carefully considered. Administrative and scientific departments and labs should continue to use remote technology to collaborate instead of meeting in person. In the event that an in-person meeting is necessary, there should be a compelling reason (for example routine staff meetings would not fall into this category). In-person meetings should continue to be a rare event until further notice.

For a meeting of any size, the following must be adhered to:

  • meeting room should not exceed posted maximum occupancy;
  • all individuals including speakers must wear masks at all times;
  • no food/drink should be consumed during meeting;
  • social distancing is required with appropriately spaced seating

In addition, for any meeting larger than 10 persons the meeting must receive prior approval from me (for administrative/operational meetings) or from David Mark Welch (for research/lab meetings) with an attendance log kept for the meeting. Requests for 10+ person meetings should be sent to or respectively.

Note: this guidance has been posted on the COVID-19 Guidelines and Resources section of the intranet for future reference.

Face Coverings
The MBL requires everyone on campus to wear a face covering that fully covers their nose and mouth. To best protect everyone, the face covering should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face with minimal gaps in the nose, sides, or chin. It is critical that you do not drop your mask below your nose when wearing it. Full details on requirements for face coverings is available here.

Symptom Monitoring
More than ever, it is essential that all members of our community who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms refrain from contact with others and seek medical advice and/or testing. Please remember to do your daily health check. If you test positive, you must report your diagnosis immediately to your manager and Human Resources. With the new variants, a person who contracts COVID-19 may become contagious to others more quickly, so recognizing symptoms when they first appear is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus.

Thank you for your continued efforts to promote the health and wellbeing of the MBL community. We will continue to follow expert guidance on this the as it develops. Information on COVID-19 guidance and policies are available on the COVID-19 Guidelines and Resources section of the intranet.

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer