Information for Employees

November 20: Update on Calendar Year 2021 Planning

Dear Colleagues,

Last month we announced the formation of two working groups charged with assessing the capacity and space required to safely offer research and education activities at the MBL in the coming year.

The Visitor Working Group was tasked with developing a comprehensive list of the constituencies who come to campus and the space utilization that each group requires. The Space Capacity & Expansion Working Group was asked to analyze the capacities of all spaces—including housing, dining, lab, lecture, and childcare—and explore ways we might expand available space, for example by erecting tents. Our planning assumption is that the current Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions will stay in place through the spring and summer.

David Mark Welch and the Research team have determined the space available across campus for Whitman Scientists and Grass Fellows. Linda Hyman and the Education team are continuing to work with course faculty to think creatively about how they can augment course schedules and/or rosters to allow for the most programs as possible.

It has become clear that lab space will be the limiting factor for all programs. We do not anticipate having capacity issues for housing or dining. David, Linda, and Nipam Patel will meet over the next two weeks to make decisions on space allocations across programs and a draft programming schedule will be completed by mid-December.

The University of Chicago is providing technical support to help us work through these details and operationalize the schedule. Some of the challenges to be worked out include quarantine dormitory space, COVID-19 testing (requirements, capacity, and cost), additional cleaning responsibilities, and the associated costs of each.

We recognize that with the current pandemic situation it is difficult to think about having a busier campus, but we are hoping for a better situation in the spring and summer. We are appreciative of the efforts of the visitor and space working groups who helped us to gather this essential information and will continue to keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you,

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer

November 18: Suspected COVID-19 Case at the MBL

Dear Colleagues –

I write to inform you that an individual working on-campus has been tested for COVID-19 after feeling ill and is self-quarantining while awaiting results.

Out of respect of the privacy of the individual, we are unable to disclose details, however all close contacts of the individual have been contacted and will be informed if the patient tests positive. If you are not contacted directly, it means we do not have reason to think you had close contact with the individual, per CDC’s guidelines.

We ask that all members of our community continue to monitor their health for symptoms every day before arriving at the MBL using the Mandatory Daily Health Screening form as a guideline. Please consult the CDC website for further guidance on how to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you,

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer

November 17: Guidance for In-Person Meetings | Mask Reminder | Thanksgiving Precautions

Dear Colleagues –

As COVID-19 cases increase dramatically locally, regionally, and across much of the country, I write to convey updated guidance regarding in-person MBL meetings and to stress the importance of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday safely. This guidance is intended to limit spread of COVID-19 among all of us who work, study, and conduct research on the MBL campus.

Updated Guidelines for In-Person Meetings 
MBL employees working on-campus should continue to meet remotely (e.g. using Zoom or Teams) whenever possible. In the event that an in-person meeting is necessary, the gathering should not exceed the meeting room’s posted maximum occupancy. Individuals must wear masks at all times and maintain social distancing. Update: Any meeting greater than 10 people must be approved by me and a meeting attendance log must be kept. All 10+ in-person meeting requests should be sent to

Mask Reminder 
A mask order requiring face coverings in in all public places, even when a distance of 6 feet of distance from others is maintained, went into effect in Massachusetts on November 6. All MBL staff are reminded to wear a mask while transiting between buildings outdoors, even if alone or greater than 6 feet away from another person. Several outdoor mask break areas across the campus have been designated for employee use. See Guidance on Using Masks in MBL Work Areas for specific guidance.

Limit Holiday Travel and Gatherings 
The MBL strongly discourages travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period and urges against large gatherings. This is difficult advice for all of us to hear during a time when family and friends traditionally come together. However, as state and federal experts have emphasized, in the current pandemic situation even small gatherings that mix households are potentially dangerous.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving in-person this year is with the people in your household. Similarly Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has warned residents to rethink their Thanksgiving plans. If you’re going to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, CDC officials say you should take precautions to make the celebration safer. In addition the website offers public health guidance and tips for celebrating safely. The attached flyer provides some simple dos and don’ts.

Currently only four states (New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Hawaii) are exempt from quarantine under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Travel Order. Anyone entering Massachusetts from a non-exempt state must complete a travel form and acknowledge that they will quarantine for 14 days or can produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. Regionally it is becoming increasingly difficult to cross state lines without encountering some type of quarantine and/or testing restriction. Several New England states (Maine, Vermont and Connecticut) require Massachusetts travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Employees who travel out of state regardless of destination are reminded to complete the MBL’s internal travel form. This will help us work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to limit exposure in the event of a positive test case.

As the Commonwealth experiences an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, everyone should continue to diligently monitor their health for symptoms every day before arriving at the MBL using the Mandatory Daily Health Screening form as a guideline.

I have been greatly encouraged by the efforts all of you make every day to limit the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. Thank you for your continued diligence and community-minded approach to health and safety. Please visit the COVID-19 Guidelines and Resources webpage for more information and updates. Thank you in advance for observing these important guidelines.

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer

November 6: Revised Mask Guidance

Dear Colleagues,

On Monday, November 2 Governor Charlie Baker announced a new series of executive orders and advisories aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus amid a spike of cases across the Commonwealth. All orders and advisories went into effect today, Friday, November 6 at 12:01 AM.

The Governor’s new face covering order requires all individuals over the age of 5 to wear face coverings in all public places, indoors and outdoors, regardless of distance from others.

The MBL campus encompasses both private and several public areas, including sidewalks, the Eel Pond seawall adjacent to the Lillie parking lot, and Waterfront Park among others.

As an institution we must be compliant with the Governor’s new mask mandate. Therefore, all MBL staff are expected to continue to wear a face covering at all times while in MBL buildings and while transiting between buildings outdoors, even if alone or greater than 6 feet away from another person. Individuals may remove face coverings indoors if they are in a private room/office alone with the door shut or while eating indoors with at least 8 feet of social distance in designated breakrooms.

We understand that this new guidance will be challenging for those people who do not have their own office space who would like to take a mask break. Therefore we have designated the following private outdoor areas of campus where masks may be removed for mask breaks while 6 feet of social distancing is maintained (see map here – MBL Intranet access required to view). Note: mask break areas are for use by employees only.

  • The Quad
  • Swope Terraces
  • Fenced-off area behind the Collection Support Facility near the Gemma dock
  • ESL/Homestead (area under second floor walkway between buildings)
  • Lillie Side Door Picnic Table
  • Swope Bike Rack Area
  • Loeb Entrance (front/quad entrance)

The Guidance on Using Masks in MBL Work Areas has been updated to reflect this change and offers specific guidance.

While the MBL has been successful in controlling the spread of the virus on campus to date, it is imperative that we all remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our campus and our community. If you have any questions or concerns about this updated mask guidance, please contact me at 508-289-7427 or


2020 Archived Messages:

August-October Updates

July Updates

June Updates

May Updates

April Updates

March Updates

February Updates