Covid-19 and Research Ramp-Up Information

MIT is in the process of re-opening campus to researchers, faculty, staff and students in a measured approach that places the safety of our community first and foremost, and that is consistent with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidance for non-essential businesses. The Office of the Vice President for Research, in consultation with the Research Ramp Up Committees (described below); the Campus Space Contingency Working Group; the Legal, Ethical and Equity Committee; IS&T; the Department of Facilities; and MIT Medical, among others, has implemented a phased approach to the return of on-campus research activity.

Research Planning Committees and Town Halls

The quick ramp down of research at the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown, the continuity of vital research, and the planning for research ramp up could not have been done without the participation of the entire MIT research community. We would like to acknowledge and thank the members of the Research Continuity Working Group, and the Research Ramp Up “Lightning” and “Thunder” Committees for their expertise, guidance and tireless work to develop processes and procedures to ensure the safety of all MIT researchers and staff, and to all who gave feedback directly to the Committees and who participated in the Research Town Halls, providing vital input during the planning process.

Covid Access System and Covid Pass

Covid Access System

COVID Access is a web-based central database to support the campus ramp-up effort and system of record of MIT community members who need access to campus buildings. It allows DLCs to upload approved planning spreadsheets in order to manage access to necessary facilities. Once a community member is confirmed in the system, they will receive a “Return to campus” email to complete access requirements using the Covid Pass.

Covid Pass

Covid Pass is an app designed to ensure that MIT community members fulfill certain requirements to return to campus, and to maintain their approved access. Researcher requirements are:

  • Signing a form acknowledging risks of return and requirements to be on campus.
  • Completing the required EHS training.
  • Completing a daily health attestation. Researchers need to complete a health attestation each day they plan to come to campus; the pass expires after 25 hours. 
  • Complete regular Covid-19 testing. The frequency will depend on how often the researcher is accessing campus.

More detailed information and instructions on how to use the Covid Access and Covid Pass systems can be found in the “Planning Guidance & Building Access Information” section below.

Covid Travel

While MIT community members who have access to campus are advised to refrain from travel when possible, those who must travel are advised to register their travel in the Covid Travel section of the Covid Pass app.

Health Data Collection and Analysis

The Covid Pass and Covid Access system are parts of the MIT Covid Response System (MCRS). The MCRS will allow the Institute to gather deidentified data and analyze it to inform future decisions as we continue research ramp up and other return to campus activities

Planning Guidance and Building Access Information

On June 7, 2021, in accordance with guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Cambridge, MIT lifted all of its Covid-era limits on building occupancy, returning spaces to their pre-Covid capacities. The Lightning and Thunder Committees released Updated Guidance for Laboratory- and Non-laboratory-based Research at MIT to clarify what this means for MIT researchers and research staff. Below is a brief summary of guidance regarding use of space and building access.

  • While capacity limits have been lifted, access to buildings remains restricted to members of the MIT community who are authorized to access campus using Covid Pass, with regular testing and attestations required, with some exceptions:
    • Individual Departments/Labs/Centers (DLCs), Principal Investigators (PIs), Research Core Facilities and research supervisors may choose to impose more strict capacity and physical distancing guidelines for space that is assigned to them.
    • Covid Access authorizers and MIT gatekeepers may still limit access to certain areas via MIT Occupant Access Points (see MIT Campus Access Map).
  • Earlier guidance that those who can work from home should work from home no longer applies. DLCs can now authorize all members, regardless of type of work, to access lab and office space. Individuals who are not already in the COVID Access system can be entered via the Exercise B spreadsheet or by entering an individual allocation.
  • Campus visitors may now enter non-residential campus buildings if accompanied by a Covid Pass user who is authorized to access buildings; such visitors must be escorted by a Covid Pass user while inside campus buildings. All visitors must follow MIT’s pre-Covid visitor policies, as well as posted Covid safety precautions. Please refer to the full guidance document for specific instructions regarding vendors/service providers and core facility users.
  • Well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

On June 1, 2021, MIT leadership communicated COVID-19 vaccination requirements and a preview of fall policies to the MIT community. All MIT faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 30, 2021, in order to work on campus. Exemptions to this requirement may be granted for medical or religious reasons, or for staff who are approved to work remotely full-time.


During ramp up, all campus access plans and requests must be approved by the DLC head in accordance with the most recent guidance. DLC heads are responsible for uploading approved access plans into the Covid Access system, which is part of the MIT Covid Response System (MCRS) and will initiate building access protocols. Also, each DLC must have a DLC Monitoring and Compliance Committee in place to ensure compliance with current guidelines. Finally, all DLCs must comply with current guidance on common space usage.

Covid Access & Covid Pass Instructions

Building Access

Library Access and Use

Information for Researchers, Research Staff and Visitors

Throughout the pandemic, MIT has aligned campus policies with guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Cambridge. While the Institute continues to monitor the situation and update polices as needed, MIT has lifted all of its Covid-era limits on building occupancy, returning spaces to their pre-Covid capacities. In addition, the Lightning and Thunder Committees released Updated Guidance for Laboratory- and Non-laboratory-based Research at MIT to clarify what this means for MIT researchers and research staff. Below is a brief summary of guidance regarding MIT researchers, research staff and visitors:

  • While capacity limits have been lifted, access to buildings remains restricted to members of the MIT community who are authorized to access campus using Covid Pass, with regular testing and attestations required, with some exceptions:
    • Individual Departments/Labs/Centers (DLCs), Principal Investigators (PIs), Research Core Facilities and research supervisors may choose to impose more strict capacity and physical distancing guidelines for space that is assigned to them.
  • Covid Access authorizers and MIT gatekeepers may still limit access to certain areas via MIT Occupant Access Points (see MIT Campus Access Map).Earlier guidance that those who can work from home should work from home no longer applies. DLCs can now authorize all members, regardless of type of work, to access lab and office space. As of September 3, 2021, campus visitors may now be granted limited access to non-residential campus buildings using a visitor pass called a Tim Ticket. All visitors must follow MIT’s pre-Covid visitor policies, as well as posted Covid safety precautions. Please refer to the full guidance document for specific instructions regarding vendors/service providers and core facility users.
  • Well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

All MIT faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work on campus. Exemptions to this requirement may be granted for medical or religious reasons, or for staff who are approved to work remotely full-time.

The Office of the VPR is working to provide more detailed guidance as to how these updated policies apply to researchers and research staff, and we will be updating the information provided below as those details become available.


Faculty and Staff Working Abroad

Faculty and staff working abroad must adhere to MIT’s COVID-19 travel policy and any guidance from their DLC. Future requests for staff to proceed with international appointments – for example, those working at research facilities outside the U.S. – should continue to go through the International People Placement (IPP) process managed by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC). See the link below for the latest information.

International Scholars

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) is processing requests for visa documents and employment-based petitions. For the latest information, please refer to the links below or contact the Office at ischo@mit.edu [email].

Postdoctoral Scholars

Postdoctoral scholars must follow the same guidelines for research activity and campus access as all other researchers. Postdoctoral scholars with specific questions may reach out to their key administrative contact or email Postdoctoral Services [email].

Graduate Students

Graduate students must follow all polices outlined by the Division of Student Life.

Undergraduate Students (UROPs)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is publishing regular updates to policies and procedures for UROP participants in alignment with MIT policies as COVID-related restrictions are lifted. Please check the links below for the latest updates and guidance.

Visiting Scholars, Scientists, and Professors

MIT has resumed visiting scholar/scientist/professor appointments starting on or after September 1, 2021. To access campus, these visiting researchers, like MIT students, faculty, and staff, will be required to be fully vaccinated and to participate in CovidPass. 

While this includes international visiting scholars, visa processing delays, consulate closures, and U.S. government travel restrictions will continue to affect travel. The International Scholars Office will work with DLCs on a case-by-case basis to select reasonable start dates and manage expectations for international visitors.

Visiting Students

While MIT will welcome applications to the Visiting Students Program starting in September, enrollments will not begin until January 2022 in order to provide time to implement improvements to the program. To learn more, please read this letter from Martin Schmidt and Maria Zuber.

Guidance for Researchers and Staff During Ramp Up

COVID-19 Testing and COVID Pass Warnings

The primary concern for the Institute during this time period is protecting the health of the community while maintaining research and academic continuity. With that in mind, it is important that MIT researchers and staff know how to respond in the event that they or a member of their team test positive for COVID-19, or experience any symptoms that could indicate a possible COVID-19 infection. Please read the information below and be familiar with the correct protocols for your situation.

If you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, do not go to MIT Medical’s testing trailer. COVID Pass testing is for asymptomatic individuals only. If you feel you are ill, stay home and log your symptoms into COVID Pass or call MIT Medical’s COVID-19 hotline at 617-253-4865.

Face Coverings and Other Personal Protective Equipment

When on campus, all individuals MUST adhere to state and local regulations, and Institute policies regarding face coverings and other forms of personal protective equipment.

Currently, well-fitted face coverings, such as cloth coverings or masks, must be worn in all MIT buildings except:

  • When alone in a fully enclosed space.
  • When actively eating or drinking indoors.
  • Residents of MIT Housing or FSILGs when they are alone (or with their roommates, suitemates, spouses, partners, children, or families) in their private rooms or suite common rooms with the door closed. For more information, see the Covid-19 policies for graduate and undergraduate students.
  • When speaking in a group setting where all others present are masked (e.g., a faculty member, instructor, or TA giving a lecture; a guest speaker at an event; a student asking a question in class; a staff member making a comment in a meeting); a speaker may lower or remove their mask while speaking and then raise or replace their mask to allow others to speak. In a given space, only one mask should be down or off at a time.

Additional resources and information:

Laboratory Safety

In addition to the above policy statement on gloves, face coverings and PPE, the MIT Environment, Health & Safety Office (EHS) has compiled information and resources for additional laboratory safety precautions during this time.  All pre-COVID EHS policies and procedures remain in effect.

Working with the SARS-CoV-2 Genome

Researchers are reminded that work with nucleic acids encoding for any portion of the SARS-CoV-2 genome may not begin without approval from the MIT Committee on Assessment of Biohazards & Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (CAB/ESCRO) (MIT certificate required). Consult your biosafety officer for more information. If you are planning to work with the SARS-CoV-2 N gene (Nucleocapsid), please review the guidance document for amplifying the SARS-CoV-2 N gene (MIT certificate required).

Common Space and Outdoor Space Usage

While MIT has lifted capacity limits on both indoor and outdoor campus space usage, please note the following:

  • Social distancing: MIT has lifted all Covid-era policies on social distancing, except when eating.
  • Eating indoors: Eating indoors is now permitted in all campus buildings. When dining indoors with others at MIT, members of the community are encouraged to limit group size to four people; maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals and 8 feet of distance between groups of people dining together; and limit the time spent eating together to 20 minutes. MIT continues to encourage those on campus to dine outdoors whenever possible.
  • Campus events: Events sponsored by MIT departments, labs, centers, offices, and student organizations are now permitted. Event sponsors are expected to register all attendees for events that include non-MIT visitors; for contact-tracing purposes, all attendees at such events must provide their name, contact information, and voluntary information on their vaccination status. Visitor access for events must be managed as described above. All attendees must wear well-fitted face coverings while at indoor events on campus. While events that include food are permissible, buffet-style serving is not permitted.
  • Face coverings: Regardless of vaccination status, well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

Human Subjects Guidance

Researchers must certify and apply for approval to start or direct person-to-person human subject research via COUHES Connect. COUHES approval is necessary, but not sufficient, for the resumption of human subject research; additional policies may apply. Please refer to COUHES COVID-19 Updates for current guidance.

    Animal Research Guidance

    The Division of Comparative Medicine has been following their Emergency Disaster Plan that includes coverage during pandemics to ensure the health and welfare of the animals. Also, the Committee on Animal Care (CAC) has remained fully operational remotely throughout the COVID-19 response. For the latest information please visit the following resources:

    Travel Guidance

    As the Covid-19 pandemic remains a serious risk across the globe, a modified Covid-19 travel policy will remain in effect. This is in addition to MIT’s existing International Travel Risk Policy. We encourage everyone to read the full policy, which includes details and the necessary application for the exception process. In addition, individuals traveling internationally, whether for approved MIT-related or personal purposes, are reminded of MIT’s guidance regarding international travel with MIT data and materials.

    Note: All MIT community members must register their MIT-related travel through Covid Travel and are encouraged to register their personal travel as well.