Post

ML COVID-19 FAQ

by Janine Liberty

March 10, 2020

Groups

The Media Lab is following MIT’s institutional guidance and policies, which are posted and updated regularly here: http://web.mit.edu/covid19/. Please read carefully, and note that this page will continue to be updated as new details and MIT policies emerge. 

The information in this FAQ is intended for the Media Lab community. MIT policies and guidelines on travel, events, and visitors are in effect until May 15, 2020.

In some cases, and in coordination with the Institute’s response, the Media Lab may choose to take additional precautionary measures to protect our community from the spread of COVID-19.

If you have questions that aren't answered here, or you have suggestions for staying connected and staying healthy,  send them to covid19info@media.mit.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Should I come in to the Media Lab?
  2. How can I best protect myself and my friends and co-workers?
  3. Where can I find more information or help on how to attend classes virtually?
  4. I don’t have Zoom. How do I conference?
  5. What if my supervisor has told me something different than the remote work guidance listed here?
  6. I don’t have an appropriate workspace at home / I don’t have internet at home. Can I still come into the Lab to do my work?
  7. My understanding is that the risk is very low for healthy people and somewhat higher for much older people or those with preexisting conditions. Why are we virtualizing across whole institutes rather than request that at-risk people choose virtual options?
  8. Are small work teams (max. of 3 people) allowed to meet at the Lab, provided they keep a minimum of 6 feet distance between each person?
  9. I do human subject experiments and it is impossible for me to do these in my own home. Can I continue to do them at the Lab? This work is essential for me to complete my thesis.
  10. I work with chemicals and other hazardous materials, so I need to work in space shared with other groups. Can I continue to do that?
  11. What is the Media Lab’s current policy regarding visitors to the Lab? If a sponsor/prospect wants to come visit, say in a very small group of just 1–3 people who are local, is that allowed?
  12. Can I still put my leftover food under the foodcam?
  13. Will the coffee machines and Lean Box still be available?
  14. What should I do about my travel plans?
  15. For how long will MIT travel restrictions be in effect?
  16. I have personal travel plans for spring break, which aren’t related to my work at MIT. Do I need to cancel them?
  17. What steps will we be taking for direct in-building cleaning and continued decontamination? (aside from hand sanitizer outside of the elevators)
  18. Will security be upgraded while more people are working remotely? Historically, when there is low attendance in the building there have been more thefts
.
  19. What about deliveries? If the labs are all locked, how will I get my stuff, especially if I need to sign for it?
  20. Can there be a community space to check-in? Should we keep a Zoom room open for people to drop in? Is Slack the best place?
  21. Is there any guidance for groups pursuing research focused on external impact on COVID-19 (e.g, how to coordinate efforts)?
  1. Should I come in to the Media Lab?

    As of the latest update from President Reif, the Institute and campus are staying open for the time being, and certain staff may come in to work. However, all staff and students are encouraged to work remotely and practice social distancing. All events and meetings with more than 25 attendees should be canceled, postponed, or conducted in virtual form.

    On Friday, March 13, however, Hashim Sarkis, Dean of SA+P,  announced that all labs, studios and instruction areas within SA+P spaces will be closed as of Midnight Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until further notice.  As the Media Lab is part of SA+P, this applies to us. Exemptions to this policy for  Media Lab spaces in E14 and E15 will be granted by the EC for certain key staff members (e.g. facilities), work related to Covid-19, animal research and some critical work that involves physical equipment or tools that cannot be moved.

    If you require an exemption, please fill out this form. You will receive a reply within 24 hrs. Card access to E14/E15 will no longer work after March 17, except for those people who are granted exemptions. Visitors or guests will NOT be permitted entry into the buildings. Arrangements are being made to have all packages delivered to a central Media Lab location and we are figuring out how people will be able to get access to them.

    At the Media Lab, all advisors and supervisors are tasked with working out a plan with their own teams to allow people to work from home to whatever extent is possible; identify resources needed to maximize remote productivity; and create and maintain a schedule and rules for proper hygiene and social distancing while using office and lab spaces.

  2. How can I best protect myself and my friends and co-workers?

    Follow MIT Medical’s guidance: https://medical.mit.edu/three-ways-to-protect. Here are some basics: 

    • If you feel sick in any way for any reason, stay home!
    • Don’t hug or shake hands.
    • Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water
    • Use hand sanitizer often, including to clean your phone and laptop
    • Practice social distancing: try to maintain at least 6 feet between people
    • Clean commonly used objects with alcohol wipes or isopropanol (bleach wipes are less effective and can leave a caustic residue)
    • Get a flu shot now if you haven't had one and your doctor has not otherwise prohibited it, as flu patients often also need hospital beds

    Stay up-to-date on guidance and policies on COVID-19 (including when to seek care)  from MIT Medical: medical.mit.edu/COVID-19. Please do NOT walk in to Urgent Care to ask to be tested for COVID-19. If you have concerns about symptoms you are experiencing, call MIT Medical’s COVID-19 hotline at 617-253-4865 to speak with a clinician, who can evaluate your situation and tell you what to do next. They might tell you to come to Urgent Care, or they might give you advice about caring for yourself at home.

  3. Where can I find more information or help on how to attend classes virtually?

  4. I don’t have Zoom. How do I conference?

    MIT has purchased an enterprise license for Zoom:  https://mit.zoom.us. MIT community members can access the service by authenticating through Touchstone.

    Zoom enables video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems. Zoom users may hold a virtual webinar or meeting and share files or use screen sharing to show presentations, applications, or other web sites. The license MIT has acquired for Zoom provides faculty and staff the ability to conduct online meetings of up to 500 participants and other members of the MIT community the ability to conduct online meetings of up to 300 participants. As MIT works to move its academic programs and activities online, Zoom offers a strong capability to record and store video content that should be incredibly helpful during this challenging transition. 

    Resources and Support
    MIT’s Instructional Continuity website has a section on using Zoom. It includes tips on using Zoom to teach; troubleshooting tips; accessibility suggestions; and Zoom support and tutorials. Other online resources include Zoom’s Getting Started page, the MIT Sloan Guide to Teaching Virtually with Zoom, and the Zoom Landing Page in the Knowledge Base.

    IS&T offers 24x7 community support for Zoom. Faculty and course instructors who need help facilitating remote classes can send mail to teachremote@mit.edu or call 617-324-3578 (617-32-HELP-U). MIT community members who have questions or need assistance using Zoom can contact the IS&T Service Desk.

    If you don’t have Zoom on your computer and you click on a meeting invite, you will be prompted to download the Zoom client. You don’t need any kind of paid license to participate in a Zoom meeting. You only need a paid license if you want to host (initiate) a meeting that will last for more than 45 minutes or use any of the advanced Zoom features. 

    There are also many other free options for connecting with others virtually, including Skype, Google Hangouts, and WebEx. 

  5. What if my supervisor has told me something different than the remote work guidance listed here?

    ML/MAS leadership wants each of you to have agency in deciding what is best for you, supported by the best available information on risks & best practices. We want you to know that you should not face pressure from your advisor/supervisor or colleagues on how you get your work done in these times. We know that working remotely may impede your work and that we must accommodate for that change. Let’s all keep in mind that many of us are dealing with added stresses on top of figuring out how to work remotely—from moving and housing needs, to school closings and childcare, to worrying about at-risk loved ones. Flexibility is needed from all of us, but especially from faculty and supervisors.

    Please email us at covid19info@media.mit.edu with questions or concerns about this principle, which is in effect for each and every member of our community.

  6. I don’t have an appropriate workspace at home / I don’t have internet at home. Can I still come into the Lab to do my work?

    On Friday, March 13, Hashim Sarkis, Dean of SA+P,   announced that all labs and instruction areas within SA+P spaces will be closed as of Midnight Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until further notice. Exemptions to this policy for  Media Lab spaces in E14 and E15 will be granted by the EC for certain key staff members (e.g. facilities), work related to Covid-19, animal research and some critical work that involves physical equipment or tools that cannot be moved.

    If you require an exemption, please fill out this form. You will receive a reply within 24 hrs. Card access to E14/E15 will no longer work after March 17, except for those people who are granted exemptions. Visitors or guests will NOT be permitted entry into the buildings. Arrangements are being made to have all packages delivered to a central Media Lab location and we are figuring out how people will be able to get access to them.

    Students may access studio spaces and offices to collect belongings until midnight on Tuesday night. But we strongly encourage students to move out earlier—by midnight on Sunday. Faculty whose offices are accessible only through studio or other instruction spaces will still have access to these spaces, until further notice. All PhD students, and masters’ students who share office space, should move out of their spaces by midnight Tuesday, if not sooner.

  7. My understanding is that the risk is very low for healthy people and somewhat higher for much older people or those with preexisting conditions. Why are we virtualizing across whole institutes rather than request that at-risk people choose virtual options?

    There are as yet many unknowns. Someone who is personally at minimal risk can still be a carrier, as can those who don’t show symptoms, so we are erring on the safe side in taking a holistic approach to slowing the potential spread. Moreover, ~6.7% of infected individuals ages 15-49 in China required hospitalization, and we can’t afford to overwhelm the healthcare system.

  8. Are small work teams (max. of 3 people) allowed to meet at the Lab, provided they keep a minimum of 6 feet distance between each person?

    No. As of midnight on Tuesday, March 17, the Media Lab will be closed to everyone who has not been granted an exception. If you require an exemption, please fill out this form.

  9. I do human subject experiments and it is impossible for me to do these in my own home. Can I continue to do them at the Lab? This work is essential for me to complete my thesis.

    Please work with your PI/supervisor to discuss whether there might be alternative ways to design your experiments so that they may be conducted remotely. Your PI/supervisor will also help you stay up to date with MIT’s COUHES current policies regarding the impact of COVID-19 on IRB-approved HSR.

  10. I work with chemicals and other hazardous materials, so I need to work in space shared with other groups. Can I continue to do that?

    As of Midnight on Tuesday, March 17, the Media Lab will be closed to everyone who has not been granted an exception. Talk with your PI/supervisor about adjusting lab work or requesting an exemption, while still following MIT’s policies for working alone and with hazardous materials. If a physical visit is necessary to execute an experiment, and you have been granted an exemption, we recommend that you and your lab mates schedule specific times to come into your lab. Setting up morning, afternoon, and evening shifts will allow you and your colleagues to spread out more effectively while still adhering to MIT’s working alone policy

    If an experiment requires more than one person, members are advised to remain at least 6 feet from their colleagues at all times. Spray down all handles frequently with isopropanol. Wearing gloves at all times, as is required in chemistry and biology labs, should be highly protective as you’ve been trained not to touch your face when wearing gloves. Change gloves more frequently than usual, and avoid shared confined spaces.

  11. What is the Media Lab’s current policy regarding visitors to the Lab? If a sponsor/prospect wants to come visit, say in a very small group of just 1–3 people who are local, is that allowed?

    At this time, no. We recognize that the Media Lab hosts frequent visitors, and because we don’t know the travel/exposure history of any visitor, Media Lab leadership requires shifting to virtual visits until we have a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation.

  12. Can I still put my leftover food under the foodcam?

    No. Since we don’t know who has prepared or handled the food, and since sharing of utensils is not advised, we will be suspending foodcam until further notice.

  13. Will the coffee machines and Lean Box still be available?

    No. Lean Box and the coffee machines will be taken offline this weekend. The building will be closed as of Tuesday, March 17 until further notice.

  14. What should I do about my travel plans?

    The Media Lab community should follow MIT’s current policy for professional and personal travel. You can read about those policies here: http://web.mit.edu/covid19/travel/. This includes restrictions and guidance for MIT-sponsored domestic and international travel, and personal non-commuting travel outside Massachusetts.

    In short, MIT is suspending all international travel on MIT business or with MIT programs, for all faculty, students, postdocs and staff. This includes any travel associated with one’s scholarly activities as an MIT employee, even travel funded by a government grant, foundation, company, or other university. MIT also discourages personal travel to international locations by any MIT community member.

    If you travel to any nation where the CDC reports “widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission” of COVID-19, you will not be permitted to complete your required two-week self-quarantine on campus. Further, as new outbreaks occur and government travel restrictions shift, be aware that, if you choose to travel outside the United States, you may encounter difficulties in returning.

    Students planning MIT-sponsored travel beyond a 100-mile radius from Cambridge must seek review and receive approval from the Institute’s High-Risk Travel Committee and, post-approval, must register their trip in the confidential MIT travel registry. As you plan, we strongly encourage you to err on the side of caution and anticipate in advance any last-minute changes and cancellations. Please also be aware that your destination may become a high-risk area by the time of your return, and there is a chance that you could be asked to self-quarantine upon your return. Individuals wishing to travel must complete the domestic high-risk travel application as soon as possible; the Committee will make every effort to review completed applications in a timely fashion. Questions can be emailed to high-risk-travel-comm@mit.edu.

    Until May 15, MIT strongly encourages everyone in the community to register ALL non-commuting travel outside of Massachusetts in the confidential MIT travel registry. This applies to both personal and MIT-related trips, international and domestic. If a new COVID-19 outbreak occurs in a place where our community members have been traveling, having this confidential information will help our public health team take effective action.

  15. For how long will MIT travel restrictions be in effect?

    These travel restrictions will be in effect until May 15th, at which point MIT will re-evaluate the situation and issue new guidelines.

  16. What steps will we be taking for direct in-building cleaning and continued decontamination? (aside from hand sanitizer outside of the elevators)

    ML facilities will be installing additional hand sanitizer dispensers as well as asking custodial staff to more frequently disinfect high-touch areas such as door handles, elevator buttons, etc.

  17. Will security be upgraded while more people are working remotely? Historically, when there is low attendance in the building there have been more thefts
.

    As of Midnight on Tuesday, March 17, the Media Lab will be closed to everyone who has not been granted an exception. If you require an exemption, please fill out this form.

  18. What about deliveries? If the labs are all locked, how will I get my stuff, especially if I need to sign for it?

    We are establishing a central location in E15-310 (Media Lab Facilities) where all packages including those  requiring signature will be delivered. We will send out information as soon as possible as to how you can pick up any packages that arrive after Tuesday, March 17.

  19. Can there be a community space to check-in? Should we keep a Zoom room open for people to drop in? Is Slack the best place?

    The Delta and Comms teams are looking into starting an open Zoom room. Stay tuned for more details. Several groups have their own Slack channels, and there is also one general channel for the Lab (#General). Drop a note to deltateam@media.mit.edu if you need help accessing the ML’s Slack instance (mitmedialab.slack.com).

  20. Is there any guidance for groups pursuing research focused on external impact on COVID-19 (e.g, how to coordinate efforts)?

    Kevin Esvelt is helping coordinate information about how the Lab’s research may apply to COVID-19. You can add yourself to a COVID-19 email list (you will need to log in with your ML credentials): https://legacyweb.media.mit.edu/necsys/services/mail-edit/cgi-bin/mail-edit-web/mail-edit-web?action=Edit&aliasname=covid

    Here’s a shared Google doc Kevin has started for compiling information on relevant projects: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1arIUNu0ec5ENrFLdH_EpRR5bqfB64nLGkO5kFgSvQ9k/edit?usp=sharing

    The COVID-19 ML Slack channel can be joined here: https://join.slack.com/share/IVAEZFDDL/bPXPO87zDgygGGMSRtU3LC6k/enQtOTk2NTA5NTIzNDYyLWZkNzZmMGYxYzQwMjcxYjdmOWExNzBmM2ZlY2Y5MzU4MjMyYmE1NWNlNWJhMzgxZDY4ODFlZmQyMTNmZmVjY2I

Related Content