Dear Colleagues –

As communicated in the June 9 message to staff, the MBL is continuing its transition to pre-COVID operations in recognition of an encouraging decrease in COVID-19 rates in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, and nationwide as well as high numbers of fully vaccinated individuals on our campus.

This message summarizes changes to public health requirements on our campus centered around a relaxation of social distancing restrictions in indoor spaces. These measures will go into effect on Monday, June 21.

What is changing?

  • Capacity levels will revert to pre-COVID levels in most locations (including laboratories, administrative buildings, and tents*), with the exception of Clapp and Speck Auditoriums which will have every other seat blocked off.
  • Research Resumption Plans (RRPs) are no longer required for resident or Whitman laboratories. Labs and workstations can be rearranged. Note, these changes are not mandatory and principal investigators have the authority to restrict capacity of their lab without prior approval.
  • Return to Laboratory Teaching Plans (RLTPs) are no longer required for education programs.
  • Face shields – Situations requiring individuals to work in close proximity (e.g. work at microscopes, injection rigs, dissection stations) will no longer require face shields and double masking.
  • The MBLWHOI Library stacks and reading rooms will be available for use by staff and programmatic participants (courses and Whitman scientists) while the Library is staffed, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
  • Administrative capacities as noted in the Administrative Resumption Plan can revert to pre-COVID/normal occupancy levels.
  • Shuttle capacity on the MBL Shuttle will increase to 8 plus driver. Per Commonwealth of Massachusetts mass transit guidelines, masks are still mandatory for all individuals riding the shuttle.
  • Pierce Exhibit Center and Gift Shop will open to the public July 1. View days and hours of operation. 

*While tent capacities will increase, additional tent furniture will not be provided. 

What is not changing?

  • Housing capacity– current housing capacities and assignments will remain in place.
  • Dining capacity – there is no change to current dining structure and dining layouts at this time, including the Swope dining tent. We will address indoor dining capacities later in the summer.
  • Breakroom capacity– breakrooms in laboratory and administrative buildings can be used for meetings at normal capacity (masked, no food or drink) or for eating/drinking/mask breaks at 6’ distancing.   Breakroom users should avoid scheduling meetings during lunch break hours.
  • Building access– In the coming weeks, we will share more about updates for building access.
  • Masks – Everyone is expected to continue wearing a mask over the nose and the mouth at all times while in MBL buildings, with narrow exceptions. We are establishing a working group to address the issue of indoor masking and vaccine status. We expect to issue guidance in these areas later this summer.
  • Visitors & Vendors– Current policies for campus visitors and vendors remain in place.
  • Public Access– Public access to MBL facilities (e.g. MBLWHOI Library, Swope Dining) and programs (e.g. tours, lectures) will continue to be suspended until further notice.

There will be a transitional period to implement logistical changes in the lecture and meeting spaces and we ask for your patience as we gradually modify the room set-ups and add more chairs into spaces. Similarly, we expect many members of our community will choose to maintain distancing indoors or use face coverings outdoors for various reasons, and we request everyone to act with consideration and understanding regarding these choices. Lastly, while we are releasing restrictions, we expect all members of our campus community to exercise common sense and use good judgement by not overpacking spaces.

We will be working to update the MBL Forward site and signage around campus to reflect these changes. If you have any questions, please visit the MBL Forward site or email

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer