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COVID-19 Update: New COVID Variants and Face Coverings

To members of the Emerson community:

First, thank you all for your cooperation as we adjusted the move-in and start of the in-person academic experience this semester. I hope that this spring term is off to a good start.  

I am writing today to provide an update on what you have likely read and heard about in the news: the new variants of the COVID-19 virus. As we have learned these past 11 months, information comes quickly and can be ever-changing as it relates to the virus and guidance. Additionally, with the new administration, the federal government may be releasing updated information and guidance. Still, I felt it was important to share what we know as of today: 

  • There are several new variants/strains of the COVID-19 virus currently circulating worldwide;
  • It is not unusual for viruses to mutate over time (e.g. influenza); 
  • The CDC and our colleagues at Tufts Medical Center are actively monitoring this. Some of these new strains appear to be more easily communicated/spread, but at this time there is not sufficient data to know if the strains produce more or less severity of illness or morbidity. The current PCR COVID testing administered through the Broad and Tufts Medical Center is able to detect these variants;
  • COVID prevention/protective measures (three-ply properly fitting face coverings, hand washing, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and daily symptom monitoring) must continue to be followed to reduce transmission;
  • Early detection of exposed persons and positive cases with prompt quarantine and isolation continues to be mitigation measures that Emerson will utilize. 

We have also received several questions over the past few days about masks and face coverings. Now, more than ever, it is important that all members of our community wear appropriate face coverings any time they leave their private room or office. Masks must be: 

  • At least three-ply (three layers of washable, breathable fabric)
    • Emerson College has provided two black reusable three-ply cloth face coverings to all community members.
    • The purple Emerson College masks provided in the fall are four-ply. 
    • If you are in need of a reusable cloth mask, please let us know and we will coordinate getting you one. 
  • Fit snuggly to cover both your nose and mouth
    • Masks with vents, gaiters, bandanas, and other loose fitting cloth coverings are not permitted.  
  • Changed daily or if it becomes wet/soiled (and if reusable, washed before your next use). There is a limited supply of extra disposable masks at security stations should you need one.
  • One-time-use medical-grade masks (e.g. N95, KN95, surgical masks) are acceptable should individuals have their own and wish to use it (alone or in addition to a cloth mask). 

We again thank you for your continued cooperation Please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me at

Erik Muurisepp
AVP, Campus Life

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