I also just got the email.
I really do not see why everyone is calling it a "hold" email. I associate "hold" with "defer," whereas this just seems like, "sorry we have not reached a decision yet. We know you applied early, and we are doing the best we can to get you a response ASAP!"
Am I missing something...?
the fact that they already looked at our applications is the key point here. if it was more like "sorry, but there are so many apps that we havent gotten to yours yet," i'd agree with you. that they decided for one reason to to hold off, probably in order to get a better sense of the entire applicant pool, makes this effectively a deferral.
I just called and was explicitly told that it is not a hold, or a waitlist, or anything like that.
"It is just a courtesy email to let you know that we are still working on your application and ask for your patience," is what I was told by the adcomm.