Letter from Whitehead Institute Director David Page (3/22)

The following letter was sent by Whitehead Institute Director David Page on March 22, 2020.

Dear fellow members of the Whitehead Institute community,

This afternoon I walked through all of our lab spaces, and support and administrative areas, taking in the strange silence that has descended upon our building, by necessity and at our choosing.  (There were 8 or 9 people in the building, including security – remarkably few, even for a Sunday afternoon.)  It has taken me a few days to gain some bit of distance on the difficult decisions of the past week, when we dramatically ramped down our in-person laboratory, support, and administrative activities to ensure the health and wellbeing of those working at Whitehead Institute, to contribute to slowing viral spread, and to help protect the most vulnerable in the larger community (as described in my letter to you last Sunday). 

What I want to share now is how deeply, deeply grateful I am for what each and every one of you has done and are doing to respond to this challenge with determination, grace, generosity, and good will toward our colleagues and our community, both within these walls and beyond.  These are no ordinary times, and I am proud of our community’s ability to wind down the bulk of our laboratory activities in the span of just five days – a difficult and painful exercise, given our individual and collective commitments to our scientific work and mission.  I want to specifically thank the Faculty, the Fellows, and the leaders of our core facilities for consulting with their groups to identify critical or essential work, and for designating individuals within their groups to maintain continued access for such work.

Working remotely is the new norm, and I know that you are exploring and developing novel ways of maintaining regular and frequent contact within and among your research groups and administrative departments.  This, too, is a challenge we will meet.

I would also like to thank the great number of you who have inquired about how we at Whitehead Institute might help address the shortfall in masks and other personal protective equipment that frontline healthcare workers are experiencing. Pari Arokiaraj has been working with the Cambridge Local Emergency Planning Committee, together with our individual safety representatives and lab managers, to gather up and donate gloves, surgical masks, and disposable gowns for transport to local hospitals most in need.  If labs have supplies that they would like to donate but have not already done so, please contact Pari (araj@wi.mit.edu).

As you are following the news closely, you know that much more challenging times lie ahead as reflected in rising numbers of cases and growing demands on Massachusetts hospitals and caregivers – and the painful experiences of medical colleagues in Italy, Seattle, New York, and a growing number of other nations and cities.  The storm has arrived, but we have yet to feel its full force.  I would encourage everyone in our community, including the leaders of our labs, cores, and administrative departments, to prepare for the possibility of additional social restrictions (shelter in place) that might be imposed by Governor Charlie Baker in the coming days or weeks.

Thank you again for all that you do to serve our common goals and our shared mission, and please see to your own safety and that of your families and friends.