Answering the Call

An outpouring of support in response to COVID-19 helps students in need, health-care providers, and the broader community.
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A team organized by Tufts students repaired more than 6,000 N95 masks for use at Tufts Medical Center.

Responding swiftly and generously to an unprecedented challenge, the Tufts community has mobilized resources to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and assist those in need.

President Anthony Monaco summed up the humanitarian ethos of Tufts’ far-reaching actions in an April community message, writing, “As much as we have done, we can and will do more—including continuing to marshal the university's resources in the service of the greater good.”

Monaco set the pace for that fight on a national level with a March 18 op-ed in The Boston Globe that urged residential colleges and universities to help reduce the strain on health-care systems by housing first responders and others on their campuses. Later, in a webinar partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Education and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, he shared what Tufts learned in working with two hospitals and two cities to save lives.  

The university’s responses to the pandemic included the following.

Supporting student well-being: When Tufts closed most of its residence halls and moved to online instruction to reduce transmission of COVID-19, some Tufts students faced unexpected financial hardships, including costs related to travel, storage of items, disruptions to employment, and the expenses of remote learning. To meet those financial needs, several schools launched crowdfunding sites to raise support.

Responses were generous to graduate and professional schools who set crowdfunding goals collectively totaling close to $100,000. An Arts, Sciences, and Engineering crowdfunding campaign for undergraduate and graduate students bolstered the Unexpected Hardship Fund, raising close to $130,000 from more than 1,000 donors in just three weeks. Contributions continue to be needed; visit the online giving site to support students through a hardship fund, financial aid, or area of greatest need.

Easing pressure on hospitals: In partnership with local health-care providers and the university’s host communities, Tufts is relieving pressure on local health-care systems by offering space in its residence halls to house medical personnel, first responders, and patients, including those recovering from COVID-19. The university also offered parking lots for alternative testing sites to help decrease demand on hospitals. 

Repairing and donating masks: In March, a team mobilized by students and fellows at Tufts repaired more than 6,000 N95 masks so that they could be used at Tufts Medical Center. The elastic bands on the donated masks were brittle and prone to breaking, so members of The Fletcher School’s Military Fellows Program, who were volunteering at the medical center, put out a call for solutions. Tufts engineering students, working with others at MIT and Harvard, developed a prototype at the university’s makerspace and a Tufts-led team completed the vital repairs.  

In addition, Tufts donated to local hospitals a supply of personal protective equipment and respirators from research and teaching labs and Cummings veterinary hospitals. A group of Tufts parents in China also donated 31,000 desperately needed respirator masks to Tufts Medical Center. At the time of this writing, several other alumni and parents have made arrangements to deliver masks and other PPE from around the world. 

Promoting mindfulness: Christina Pastan, D91, DG92, DG94, director of Mind-Body Wellness at the School of Dental Medicine, who usually leads weekly meditation and yoga sessions in Boston, started leading mindfulness meditation and yoga groups from her home, using Zoom. The university’s department of Health Promotion and Prevention also started hosting online drop-in meditation sessions for the university community. Find out more, and learn how you can participate, at Tufts Now.

For complete coverage of COVID-19 news, visit Tufts Now. For updates on the university’s response to COVID-19, including its impact on university events, visit the COVID-19 news hub.