March 13, 2020

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

I write to follow up on the message you received Wednesday from HUHS Executive Director Giang Nguyen regarding two members of our community who have been tested for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). One individual received a presumptive positive test and is receiving medical care off campus. We await test results for the second individual. Additionally, a third individual who had close contact with the person who tested positive, is now being tested. Additional close contacts will be tested as needed.

Ensuring the anonymity of these individuals is paramount. If you are aware of their identities, please respect their privacy so that they can focus completely on their health. The last thing they need—or any of us would want for them—is public attention and scrutiny. We will do everything we can to support these individuals through what is undoubtedly a disconcerting and difficult time.

Guided by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health agencies, Harvard has established protocols for evaluating individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19. In line with those protocols, the Department of Public Health is taking the appropriate steps to communicate with members of the community who may have come into contact with the individual who tested positive. HUHS is supporting this effort. 

I recognize that the uncertainty around COVID-19, and now a confirmed case within our community, may cause stress and anxiety, and I urge you to be in touch with either Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services or the Harvard Employee Assistance Program if you need assistance. I also encourage you to visit the University’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for important information and updates related to our response. 

The interventions I announced on Tuesday, which are now under way, will decrease the density of people on our campus to help slow the spread of COVID-19. I know that many of you are concerned about the speed with which we are compelling you to act, and I understand that the changes we are asking you to make are very significant, but today’s confirmed case gives our efforts even greater urgency. At every level of the University, good people are working without pause to provide guidance and resources, to share the latest information, and to make decisions with a single end in mind—ensuring the safety of every member of our community.

I must reiterate the responsibility that each of us has in keeping our community safe. Everyone should be following the preventive recommendations that have been shared previously. Please re-familiarize yourself with these practical and effective measures.

No one knows what we will face in the weeks ahead, but everyone knows enough to understand that COVID-19 will test our capacities to be kind and generous, and to see beyond ourselves and our own interests. Our task now is to bring the best of who we are and what we do to a world that is more complex and more confused than any of us would like it to be. May we all proceed with wisdom and grace.

With appreciation,

Larry