Colds, flu, and COVID-19: A guide for students

With the start of cold and flu season just around the corner, and COVID-19 cases likely to rise as people spend more time indoors, we want you to know what to do if you, your roommate, or those you live with get sick. We also want to share the the specific rules you’ll need to follow if you test positive for COVID-19.

I feel sick. What should I do next?
Call MIT Medical’s 24-hour helpline at 617-253-4481 and speak to a triage nurse. Describe your symptoms in detail, so the nurse can give you advice about what to do next. The nurse may schedule a same-day appointment, recommend that you come to Urgent Care, or give you suggestions for taking care of yourself without coming in.

Remember, all Primary Care and Urgent Care visits at MIT Medical are free for students; they are included with your tuition, even if you waived the MIT SHIP insurance.

How do I know if it’s COVID-19?
If you are sick, you should wear a mask and take a COVID test. Free, high-quality masks are available at vending machines across campus and rapid antigen tests are for sale for $10 each at MedStop, the over-the-counter medication store located on the first floor of MIT Medical, E23, next to Urgent Care. Masks and tests are also available at all major off-campus pharmacies such as the CVS in Kendall Square.

MIT Medical will not provide on-demand testing for COVID-19 for asymptomatic individuals in either Urgent Care or Primary Care.

I tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?
If you test positive — either with an antigen test or at a doctor’s office — you will need to follow current CDC guidance, which means masking and self-isolating for five days. “Day One” is the first full day after your symptoms start. While you are isolating you should avoid eating with others and wear a mask when picking up food. After five days, you can attend classes and head out, but you will need to remain masked for five more days. Or, if you have two negative antigen tests taken 48 hours apart, you can unmask sooner.

I’m self-isolating. What should I do about food?
If you live in a dining residence, get your meals at the dining hall and take them back to your room. Make sure to wear a mask the whole time you are outside of your room. If you live in a cook-for-yourself community, avoid cooking with others. Wear your mask when you get food from your kitchen or when you pick up food you’ve ordered for delivery, then take it back to your room.

What should I do if someone I live with gets COVID-19?
If you have had a known exposure to COVID -19 you should follow the current CDC guidance. MIT does not provide isolation living areas for roommates, but healthy roommates should find ways to isolate. That could mean masking or staying with a friend for a few nights.

We have tips for how to stay healthy if your roommate is sick. The advice is the same whether your roommate has a cold, the flu, or COVID-19.

What is the easiest thing I can do to stay healthy this fall?
Get your flu vaccine at the MIT Medical flu clinic. The MIT Medical Flu Clinic will take place from October 2–6, 8 a.m.–4 p.m., in Walker Memorial. It’s easy and free for MIT students, and the wait is rarely longer than five minutes. Just remember to bring your MIT ID or have the MIT Atlas app on your phone.

What about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters?
COVID-19 vaccines will not be available at the clinic, but when the new vaccines are available, we will let the MIT community know the best way to get them.

If you need a note to be excused from a class or for an extension to complete academic work:

Note: MIT Medical does not provide notes or excuses for classes, academic work, or exams impacted by medical issues.

Finally, be sure to take daily steps to keep yourself and others well. Wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes. If you feel ill, stay home.

This news story has not been updated since the date shown. Information contained in this story may be outdated. For current information about MIT Medical’s services, please see relevant areas of the MIT Medical website.