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Update on Mask-Wearing and Distancing Protocols


*Published on May 19, 2021*

Dear Northeastern University Community,

From the beginning of the pandemic, Northeastern’s decisions have closely followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with local public health authorities. Today, we are revising our protocols for mask-wearing and physical distancing, based on updated recommendations from these same public health and government authorities.

Effective Saturday, May 29, Northeastern will no longer require fully vaccinated faculty, staff, students, visitors, and vendors on its Massachusetts campuses to wear masks indoors—including in residence halls, classrooms, dining halls, offices, fitness centers, COVID-19 testing centers, and campus buildings. This change is in accordance with Massachusetts’ updated guidance on mask requirements.

These are a few key clarifications:

  • Individuals who are not fully vaccinated are still required to wear masks indoors. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose vaccine series or two weeks following a single-dose vaccine.
  • People are still required to wear masks anywhere that city, state, federal, provincial law, or individual businesses require it. Massachusetts, Washington, and North Carolina are easing their mask mandates, so our campuses there will follow state guidelines. Local mask mandates remain in place at all of our other campus locations.
  • Massachusetts guidance still requires people to wear masks in some settingssuch as public transportation, health care, vaccination, and childcare settings. Given these restrictions, staff, faculty, and students will still be required to wear masks in the university’s childcare center and in University Health and Counseling Services on the Boston campus. Our other campuses should follow their local guidance as well.
  • Following CDC guidance on large gatherings, masks will still be required for events held in large Northeastern venues such as Matthews Arena or Blackman Auditorium. The university events committee will advise event planners of requirements as part of the event approval process.

Also effective Saturday, May 29, Massachusetts will fully reopen with no restrictions on gatherings sizes and density within buildings.

  • Accordingly, Northeastern will lift its density restrictions in Massachusetts offices, residence halls, dining areas, athletic facilities, and other campus buildings, effective May 29. We will transition to full occupancy of the classrooms at the start of the Summer II session, on July 6.
  • Our other campus locations will follow suit as local authorities ease distancing requirements. Wherever local distancing requirements remain in effect, everyone must continue to observe all campus signage on capacity limits and density restrictions. We continue to monitor state and provincial reopening plans and will update the community as developments warrant.

Northeastern will use the honor system in enforcing the new protocols for fully vaccinated people. We’ve trusted our community to “Protect the Pack” and our community has demonstrated its willingness to follow protocols that protect others’ health and safety. We will not require people to show proof of vaccination before removing their mask in a campus space. We also understand that people may have different comfort levels when it comes to removing their masks, and we respect anyone’s decision to continue wearing a mask even if fully vaccinated.

We will also treat people’s vaccine status confidentially, as we would do with medical information shared by employees. A students’ vaccination status will not be shared with faculty or staff, and we will not require faculty or staff to disclose their vaccination status.  This new guidance is one more step toward fully reopening our Massachusetts campuses this summer. It represents positive news that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, and more than 351 million vaccine doses have been administered across the United States, Canada, and the U.K. On our own Boston campus, COVID-19 cases have declined to a weekly average positive test rate of 0.02 percent with 0 cases on most days.  Please see our FAQs for more detailed information on the new protocols, and contact with any questions. We will continue to adjust our approach based on public health guidance and will keep you updated as we move through the summer.

Ken Henderson
Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning

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