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COVID-19 Update: Fall Guidance and Holiday Travel

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As we approach the Thanksgiving break, when many of us will be traveling to gather with family and friends, please continue to be vigilant in protecting yourself, loved ones, and colleagues from coronavirus transmission.

Plan Ahead for Holiday Travel and Gatherings, Mask Indoors and in Outdoor Crowds

Masking lowers risk of transmission, even among highly vaccinated populations. As you travel and visit family, friends, and others:  

  • If you plan to travel (especially by plane, train, or bus), we encourage COVID-19 testing 48 hours before your departure to increase chances that you will know your result before you travel.
  • Wear a mask, and wear it properly, particularly in airports, on planes, trains, and buses.
  • Based on your own comfort level, you might choose to unmask in private indoor settings with family and close friends; this is a personal decision. For larger gatherings, we highly encourage masking.
  • To reduce risks at indoor gatherings, remember to socialize thoughtfully, using approaches like the “Quick Sip Rule” and “Consume and Cover.”
  • If hosting a gathering, tell guests your COVID safety expectations in advance. You might use a combination of masked activities, time-limited unmasked activities, and outdoor activities where feasible.
  • For outdoor events, wear a mask when you are in crowded situations.
  • For schools, units, and departments that are considering winter gatherings, please refer to the “Events and Gatherings” guidance for on-campus activity from Harvard Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S).

Increased Testing Cadences Upon Return to Campus

As we have done throughout the fall semester, we will adjust COVID-19 testing cadences when we know that the risk of transmission may be higher. Knowing that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings may increase exposures:  

  • People in Harvard’s on-campus undergraduate residential population should increase testing to 3-times per week following Thanksgiving break, beginning the week of November 28.
  • Color test notifications will be updated for persons who are subject to this temporary increase.
  • All others should continue with your individual required testing frequency, which you can check on Crimson Clear.
  • If you’ve traveled, we suggest submitting your first test as soon as you are back on campus.

COVID-19 Boosters

The CDC continues to update information regarding COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Information on current eligibility is available on the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) COVID-19 guidance webpage.

While COVID-19 vaccination is required of all students, faculty, staff, and researchers, boosters are currently not required. Booster appointments are readily available at commercial pharmacies for those who are eligible.

Get Your Flu Shot

Get your flu shot as soon as possible if you haven’t already. You can make an appointment at commercial pharmacies or at one of HUHS’s flu clinics. For students, HUHS has extended the deadline for meeting the University’s student flu vaccination requirement to December 10.

Thank You for Keeping Harvard Healthy

Throughout the fall semester, COVID-19 cases have remained relatively low for our campus community. And, when we have seen spikes in certain parts of our community, you have reacted quickly and taken steps to help us keep this virus under control. Thank you for your commitment to Keeping Harvard Healthy, which has helped us ensure that that we could continue on-campus academic and other activities over the last few months.

Let’s keep it up as we approach the Thanksgiving break and the final weeks of the semester.


Giang T. Nguyen, M.D., M.P.H.
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services