COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) February 2020 updates
These news stories have not been updated since the dates shown. Information contained in this post is here for reference only. Please see MIT Medical's most recent post for up-to-date information for the MIT community about COVID-19. (Coronavirus Disease 2019).
February 28, 2020: While there is still no identified risk to the MIT community, or to the US as a whole, we are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 cases outside of China. Fifty countries have reported at least one confirmed case of the virus, and a growing number of countries are reporting community spread, meaning cases with no relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19. Wednesday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on February 26, 2020 the first possible instance of community spread in the US but cautioned that, although the patient has no known exposure, it’s possible that the patient was unknowingly exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.
Testing: In response to recent developments, the CDC last night issued new clinical criteria for testing individuals suspected of COVID-19 infection. The new guidelines allow testing for symptomatic individuals who have, within the last 14 days, either traveled from an affected area or had close contact with an individual known to be infected. The new guidelines also allow testing for individuals with severe symptoms and no known exposure to the virus, but only after other infections, such as influenza, have been ruled out. The Massachusetts state epidemiologist must also approve any request for testing.
Travel: The most recent travel guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts China and South Korea at Level 3 (“avoid nonessential travel”). Japan, Iran, and Italy are at Level 2 (“practice enhanced precautions.”). Hong Kong is at Level 1 (“practice usual precautions”), while Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand are listed as places with “risk of community spread,” though the CDC has not yet issued specific travel advisories for those destinations.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and it is likely that the CDC travel guidance and MIT policies will change as we learn more about how the virus is spreading. MIT’s International Coordinating Committee is an excellent informational resource for Institute travelers and can answer questions about MIT’s current travel policies. If you have international travel planned for the upcoming weeks or months, you should continue to monitor the CDC’s COVID-19 travel advisories page. If you visit a country that is listed on the CDC page at the time of your return to the US, MIT requires that you fill out and submit this travel registration form upon arrival in the United States. Once your form is received, someone from MIT Medical will contact you to discuss your specific situation and will assess your need for self-monitoring or self-isolation.
MIT and MIT Medical continue to monitor all available information about the virus and follow all public health recommendations from the CDC and state and local departments of public health. Watch this page for further updates.
February 27, 2020: An email sent to the MIT community earlier today mistakenly indicated that that MIT is requesting 14 days of self-isolation for all individuals returning from any country on the CDC’s COVID-19 travel advisories list. This is incorrect and is not consistent with current CDC recommendations. Rather, if you have visited a country on the CDC’s list, MIT requires that you fill out and submit this travel registration form upon your arrival in the United States. Once your form is received, someone from MIT Medical will contact you to discuss your specific situation and will assess your need for self-monitoring or self-isolation.
You can visit this web page to read the corrected letter.
February 25, 2020: While there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in several countries outside of China, there remains no identified risk to the MIT community. Nor has much changed in the rest of the country since our last update on February 12. As of yesterday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been 14 confirmed cases in the US; twelve were travel-related, and the remaining two occurred in individuals who were close contacts of individuals who became ill after traveling home from Wuhan. China. An additional 39 individuals tested positive, though some remain asymptomatic, after being repatriated from China or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
With the approach of spring break, we’ve started receiving questions about the advisability of travel to various international destinations. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and CDC recommendations are being updated frequently in response to the latest developments. Late yesterday, the (CDC) posted a Level 3 Travel Warning for South Korea and is now recommending that travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to that country. The CDC has also posted Alert Level 2 advisories for Iran, Italy, and Japan, recommending that travelers to those countries “practice enhanced precautions.” Again, this is an evolving situation internationally, and recommendations will evolve accordingly.
The CDC’s travel health notices are a good source of information as you are planning spring-break travel. MIT’s International Coordinating Committee is another excellent informational resource for Institute travelers and can answer questions about MIT’s current travel policies.
We continue to encourage special attention to hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact with anyone who is sick. We also remind you that as the virus shows signs of spreading elsewhere in the world, members of our community may be worried about friends and family in those areas and could benefit from a little extra support and kindness.
MIT and MIT Medical continue to monitor all available information about the virus and follow all public health recommendations from the CDC and state and local departments of public health. We’ll continue updating this page as new information becomes available or as recommendations change.
February 12, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday announced a new name for the 2019 novel coronavirus — Covid-19. According to posts on the WHO’s Twitter feed, the organization had been seeking a “pronounceable” name that “did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual, or [a] group of people.” One goal, they added, was “to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”
Meanwhile, here at MIT, community members who have been voluntarily self-isolating for 14 days after departing China continue to resume their normal activities, and MIT Medical has made the decision to discontinue these daily updates on the virus. As travel restrictions are lifted and additional individuals travel back from China, we will be asking them to fill out the travel registration form, self-isolate for 14 days, monitor themselves for symptoms, and call us immediately at 617-253-4865 if they become ill.
February 11, 2020 : Just a reminder that MIT Medical will not be providing any kind of “clearance” documentation for individuals returning to their classes, labs, offices, and other activities on campus after voluntarily self-isolating. There is no Institute policy requiring such documentation, and individuals who remain symptom free after 14 days have no restrictions on their activity.
For those of you who are coming out of self-isolation today, welcome back! We look forward to welcoming more of you over the next several days. We know that self-isolating has not been easy, and we appreciate all you have done to follow this recommendation.
February 10, 2020: The news about coronavirus in the US continues to be good. According to today’s update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of confirmed cases in the US remains at 12 — all in individuals who had traveled to China or had been in close contact with someone who returned from China and become ill. Tests by the CDC on another 318 individuals came back clear.
MIT continues to recommend a full 14 days of self-isolation for all members of our community who departed China on or after January 19. The good news is that those 14 days are already up for many individuals who have been voluntarily self-isolating, and even more members of our community will be able to return to their regularly scheduled lives in the coming days.
For those of you who are still staying home and self-isolating, today’s message from MIT Medical is this: You can do it. You’ve made it this far already. Hang in there for a few more days! We know that self-isolating is not easy, and we all appreciate the sacrifices you are making.
Do you know someone who is still self-isolating? Give them some encouragement to get to the finish line. You can’t visit them in person, but Skype, Facetime, text, messaging apps, or an old-fashioned phone call will work just as well.
February 7, 2020: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released its latest figures on cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) in the US. There are now 12 cases, all in individuals who had traveled to China or had been in close contact with someone who had.
The fact that US cases are not increasing quickly is good news and indicates that precautions are working. While a student at UMass Boston was diagnosed with the virus a week ago after returning from China, there have been no other cases in Massachusetts.
We encourage everyone to keep on doing their part to keep our community healthy. Please continue to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or upper arm, stay home if you are feeling sick, and get a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one yet. Call MIT Medical’s Primary Care Service at 617-258-9355 to make an appointment or 781-981-7080 to make an appointment at MIT Medical/Lexington.
A big thank-you to the members of our community who are staying home and self-isolating after returning from China. Please continue to be vigilant about monitoring yourself for fever and lower-respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. If you have any symptoms at all, call MIT Medical right away at 617-253-4865.
Daily updates to this page will resume on Monday, unless new developments warrant updates on Saturday or Sunday. We wish all of you a healthy weekend!
February 6, 2020: Self-isolation is hard! While members of our community who are self-isolating have official avenues of support from the Institute, there’s no substitute for support from friends and colleagues. Individuals who are self-isolating can’t have in-person visitors, but there are plenty of avenues for contact. You can Skype, Facetime, text, use other messaging apps, or go totally old school and make a phone call to ask how someone is doing.
It’s also important to remember that members of our community who are not self-isolating may still be worried about friends and family in China and could use a little extra support and kindness.
MIT has had no suspected cases of the novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) to date, and we are grateful to everyone who doing their part to keep our campus healthy — especially those who have agreed to self-isolate, even in cases where their individual risk of exposure to the virus is relatively low. Asking currently healthy individuals to self-isolate was not a decision made lightly. You can read more about our decision-making process.
February 5, 2020: In a bit of potentially good news, Science magazine is reporting serious flaws in a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, in which a woman was reported to have transmitted the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) before she had symptoms. Unfortunately, the paper’s authors relied on the observations of other individuals in describing the woman as exhibiting no symptoms of the virus. However, the woman herself has since acknowledged that she did have symptoms at the time and was taking fever-lowering medication.
This new report may alleviate anxiety for individuals who have not traveled to an affected area but who have been concerned about being exposed to the virus by an asymptomatic individual. It may also be good news for members of our community who are currently self-isolating. Out of an abundance of caution, MIT is still asking individuals to self-isolate for 14 days from their departure from mainland China; however, MIT Medical is following this situation closely, and if new scientific evidence supports shortening or eliminating the self-isolation period, we will let people know immediately.
February 4, 2020: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday updated its guidance for risk assessment and public health management for individuals with potential exposure to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV). The new CDC recommendations are consistent with MIT’s decision, announced on Sunday night, to ask all MIT community members who have traveled from mainland China to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since their departure from China. The CDC guidance now classifies all travelers from mainland China as “medium risk,” even if they have had no known exposure to the virus and have not traveled to Hubei Province.
Like MIT, the CDC is requesting that medium-risk individuals arriving from China “remain at home or in a comparable setting” while monitoring themselves for any possible symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, or other upper-respiratory symptoms). MIT currently does not have any individuals being tested for the virus, but any member of the MIT community who is self-isolating and develops symptoms should call MIT Medical immediately at 617-253-4865.
MIT is endeavoring to provide necessary support to our affected community members. Faculty have been asked to provide academic support to students who are self-isolating and unable to attend class, and students can email directly with their professors to discuss academic issues. For practical support or questions, they should email email@example.com. Staff and postdocs should contact their department’s administrative officer or supervisor for guidance and answers to any questions they might have.
February 3, 2020: Last night, February 2, members of the MIT community received an email from MIT’s medical director, provost, and chancellor, asking all individuals who have traveled from China on or after January 19 to complete an online Travel Registration Form and to self-isolate. A clinical team is processing a large number of forms and will be contacting individuals as quickly as possible. If you filled out a form, you should self-isolate while waiting to hear from us. This means you should stay home — in your room, your apartment, or your house. Do not go to work, classes, athletic events, or other social gatherings. If you must go out or must be in contact with others, wear a mask.
February 1, 2020: The coronavirus situation has continued to evolve rapidly in the last 24 hours. The US Department of State has raised its travel advisory for China to “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” and the media is reporting on the first positive case of coronavirus in Massachusetts, in an individual who is a member of the UMass community. MIT sends our best wishes to this individual for a speedy recovery.
MIT has been in constant communication with the Massachusetts and Cambridge Departments of Public Health, including calls last night and this afternoon. As of this writing, these public health agencies have asked MIT to continue following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The current CDC recommendations call for travelers who have traveled from China within the last 14 days to monitor their condition closely, but they do not call for these individuals to be quarantined, isolated, or “screened and cleared” before being allowed to go to work or school.
According to CNN, Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Rita Nieves has stated, “Right now, we are not asking Boston residents to do anything differently. The risk to the general public remains low. And we continue to be confident we are in a good position to respond to this developing situation.”
If you have traveled from China within the last 14 days, you should continue to be vigilant about monitoring yourself for fever and lower respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. However, not all affected individuals will exhibit all symptoms, and if you have any symptoms at all, call MIT Medical right away at 617-253-4865.
In addition to remaining in constant contact with public health agencies, MIT Medical is actively collaborating with senior leadership at MIT to assess our community’s unique needs and develop an appropriate path forward. We are all aware that things could change quickly, and we will be posting frequent updates as the situation evolves.