Dear Colleagues –
As we enter a new year, we are faced with a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued challenge to protect our employees and local community from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. We are experiencing a record number of Omicron cases locally and nationally and Cape Cod COVID positivity rates continue to outpace the Massachusetts state average.
We write today with an update to MBL protocols, specifically plans to increase some health and safety precautions to minimize on-campus transmissions. As a reminder, all employees must perform a daily health screening prior to entering campus and stay home if they are not feeling well. Successfully continuing our research and education programming through the Omicron variant outbreak requires a campus culture that is focused on a shared responsibility for health and safety.
Vaccine Booster Requirement
The MBL will require that employees receive a COVID-19 booster shot once they are eligible. More information about this new requirement will be shared soon, including where to submit proof of vaccination and exemption requests. In the meantime, we strongly encourage you to receive a booster shot as soon as you are eligible: six months after completing the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series or two months after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Everyone ages 16 and over is now eligible to get a booster shot. A booster will also be required for programmatic visitors to the MBL as well (e.g. students, Whitman scientists etc.)
Any unvaccinated individual with an approved exemption will be required to participate in the weekly mandatory asymptomatic testing program. Additionally, any employee who would like to join the voluntary weekly asymptomatic testing program can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, January 7. Those signing up for the voluntary program will need to test on our weekly cadence. Note, MBL’s testing program is for asymptomatic individuals only. Anyone experiencing symptoms must not come to campus and should consult a health professional and/or get tested.
We continue to administer our contract tracing program which has been essential in limiting on-campus COVID-19 transmission. A Contact Tracer will interview those individuals who are confirmed COVID positive to determine if they have been in close contact with other members of the MBL community. It is important that individuals who are aware of a positive or potential COVID-19 case keep this information confidential and allow the contact tracers to complete their process.
Masking requirements have been revised so that instructors, presenters, and speakers must remain masked at all times while indoors. Masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn indoors by all individuals unless alone in your office with the door closed or eating and drinking. See CDC guidance here for how to select, properly wear, clean, and store masks.
Dining CapacityWe’ve moved to a limited capacity in breakrooms. Please be cognizant of the capacity amounts posted on entrance doors. In addition, anyone dining indoors in breakrooms or in Swope must be sitting at least six feet from others. Please remove your masks only while eating and immediately put them back on when you are finished.
In-Person Meetings & EventsAt this time, there are no restrictions on in-person meetings. The MBL will be evaluating in-person public events on a case-by-case basis.
Revised COVID-19 Guidelines
On December 27 the CDC issued significant changes to guidance for isolation and quarantine. The guidelines consider current information about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots. The MBL has revised its exposure protocols to reflect these changes. They include:
- Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 5 days; if they have no symptoms after 5 days or symptoms are resolving, they can leave their home but must continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days. This means that masks cannot be removed around others while dining. This same comment applies to the other points below.
- Quarantine guidelines have been modified for people who have either 1) received a booster shot, or 2) have completed the primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines within the last 6 months, or 3) have completed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last 2 months. If an individual meets one of these conditions and has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, quarantine is not required but they must wear a mask around others for 10 days and get tested on day 5 after exposure if possible.
- Quarantine for 5 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19 is still required for people who are unvaccinated, or who completed their primary vaccine series more than 6 months ago for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or more than 2 months ago for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and have not received booster shots. These individuals must get tested on day 5 after exposure if possible, and wear masks around others for an additional 5 days.
- Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19, including mild symptoms ranging from sniffles to congestion or a cough, should isolate and get tested if possible.
Planning for Spring/Summer Programs
Beginning this week, we will resume our weekly COVID resiliency team meetings to assess status and to plan for upcoming spring and summer programs.
Updates for all items above will be made this week on MBL Forward website. We greatly appreciate the dedication of everyone in the MBL community as we work to address this phase of the pandemic and limit the impact of the Omicron variant.
Nipam Patel, Director
Paul Speer, Chief Operating Officer