Letter to the Whitehead Institute Community from Director Ruth Lehmann

The following letter was sent to the Whitehead Institute community from Institute director Ruth Lehmann on August 21, 2020. 

Dear Members of the Whitehead Institute Community,

I write to update you on a few COVID-19 related policy changes.

Lab Occupancy

Effective August 24th labs may choose to implement 3 researchers per 2 bays, provided each individual bench or desk position has a 6 ft. social distancing radius from others in the lab. 

Travel Policy

As you may know, Governor Baker issued an updated Travel Order for those who travel to Massachusetts from outside the country or a restricted state as defined by the Department of Public Health.

This new order states that anyone who travels into the state from outside the country or from a restricted state must complete the Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days. Failure to do so may result in a $500 per day fine. The state does provide testing as an alternative to quarantine if an individual can show a negative COVID test obtained 72 hours prior to or after arriving in Massachusetts.

While a test obtained within a 72-hour time period will satisfy the state requirement, based on medical advice, Whitehead Institute will require those who travelled from outside the country or a restricted state to either quarantine for 14 or take a test on the 7th day of arrival in the state. Upon obtaining a negative test result after the 7th day in the state staff may return to the Institute.  We request that a copy of the negative test result be sent to humanresources@wi.mit.edu for documentation purposes.

Whitehead Institute will facilitate testing at MIT Medical for new hires only on the 7th day of arrival in the state of Massachusetts as needed. Please contact HR for more information. 

All other staff have may consider the following options in order to obtain a test in lieu of quarantining for 14 days:

-        Contact your primary care physician and request a test. Please note some physicians may not order a test for an individual not exhibiting symptoms.

-        Contact a testing site listed on state’s website. Please note there is an average wait time of 2+ weeks for an appointment and an average cost of $135 per test at most locations.

-        Obtain an FDA Emergency Use Authorization approved at home COVID test from Pixel by LabCorp. A few points to keep in mind:

o   This test costs $119 and has a 2-3 days turn around once the lab receives the sample.

o   The test kit will arrive at your home within 24 hours for an order placed before 3PM EST.

o   Test kit must be dropped off at a FedEx location the same day the test is taken before the last pick up at that location. The lab will not accept samples mailed on a Saturday or Sunday.

o   You will need to answer a series of questions in order to ensure you are eligible for testing. If you have travelled by plane or have been anywhere where other people have been, you can choose the eligibility reason “congregated setting” according to Pixel customer service.

Lounges on Lab Floors

Effective Monday August 24th, the lounges will be open for meal breaks. Tables have been placed 6 feet apart and only one person can sit at a table at any time. Area should be wiped before and after use utilizing the wipes provided.

Please note in accordance with state regulations, no self-service items such as fridge, microwave, coffee maker, shared dishes etc. can be used in the lounges.

Virtual Meetings 

Several locations around the building have been identified for those who need to present at a virtual meeting or attend an interview and need to take their mask off in order to do so. These locations are not to be used if you plan to simply attend a meeting and are not presenting.  

Some labs have designated spaces where such meetings can be held. Please contact your lab coordinator to see if your lab has a designated space for this. In addition, effective Monday August 24th the following conference rooms can be booked for this purpose:

-        1st floor conference room

-        7th floor small conference room

-        Room 496

Please ensure to wipe the area before and after use utilizing the wipes provided.


 Whitehead staff with an MIT ID card can continue to park for free at any MIT lot through December 31, 2020.

Please contact HR for assistance if you do not have an MIT ID card.

Remote Working

In order to reduce the density in the building, staff who can work remotely should continue to do so. Staff should expect this arrangement to continue at least through January 3, 2021, at which point it will be re-evaluated.

Thank you for your continued attention and cooperation as we work together to address the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Our first priority remains the health, safety, and trust of all who enter our building. I thank all of you for adhering to the safety precautions and protocols we have implemented, which have required significant adjustments to your work routines. 

Ruth Lehmann