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COVID-19 Update – Take Steps to Lower Risk to Yourself, Our Community

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As we continue to monitor and manage the presence of COVID-19 on our campus, we must all remain committed to the health and safety of our community. The vast majority of you have already taken a critical step toward that commitment by being vaccinated and ensuring a high vaccination rate in our community – 95% for employees and 94% for students. However, with the Delta variant, vaccination alone does not fully eliminate the risk of COVID-19 spread. That is why we all must continue to act in ways that reduce risk to our community.
We continue to identify positive cases in our community through our COVID-19 testing program. It’s important to note that our contact tracing has not indicated any evidence of transmission within our classrooms. The greatest risk appears to be small and large social settings that involve the removal of masks to drink or eat.
It is also important to keep in mind that despite our high vaccination rates, we are all likely to encounter someone in our community who is at increased risk because they have underlying health conditions or have an at-risk household member. Even healthy-appearing young adults can be at risk due to a chronic lung problem, childhood cancer, immune-suppressing medications, or even an organ transplant.
Stay Current in Your Testing Cadence
Regular testing is required of anyone authorized to be on campus. This is key to our ability to track COVID-19 and take steps to reduce transmission. As we track positive cases, we may adjust testing cadences for various populations in our community. Please follow your required testing frequency, which you can find by logging into Crimson Clear.
Remember a negative test result does not bring your likelihood of infection to zero. It takes several days following an infection before you might test positive. A negative result is not an invitation to drop your guard. This is why community members are required to test on a regular basis. Extra testing is allowed and recommended if you have a known exposure or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
Masks Protect You & Those Around You
The science is clear. Masks work. They protect you and those around you. Requiring masks indoors makes our classrooms, labs and other campus spaces safer for all of us, allowing us to resume our academic activities and other aspects of campus life. But for masks to work, they must be worn and worn properly. 

  • Masks are required indoors.
  • Wear your mask properly, fitting securely over your nose, mouth, and chin. Ensure a secure fit around mask edges with no air gaps, including the bridge of your nose.
  • Remove your mask only around your household/suite if possible.
  • Use common sense when outdoors. Wear a mask if you are shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd or if you are only inches away from another person’s face.
  • If you are unvaccinated, you are also required to mask outdoors whenever you are within 6 feet of other people. You must also maintain distance from others when dining indoors. 

Practice “Consume & Cover” and the “Quick Sip Rule”
Eating and drinking together are a cornerstone of human social interaction, but there are ways to interact that minimize the time spent unmasked and in close proximity. You can still enjoy the company of your friends and colleagues while practicing safe behaviors, whether on campus or off. 

  • Follow the “Quick Sip Rule” when drinking. Lower your mask, take a sip, and then promptly cover your mouth and nose. A straw can make this more efficient. Do not linger with your mask down. If you wish to slowly savor a hot beverage, do it away from others.
  • Consume and cover! Consume your meal and immediately mask up when done. Conversation, checking your phone, and other activities should be masked, even when you are in a designated indoor dining area. If you are taking your time between bites (for conversation, for example), put your mask back on.
  • Dine in small parties of 2-to-4 people. Avoid table-hopping. Consider dining consistently with the same small group of people rather than a different group at every meal of the day. 

Socialize Thoughtfully
Engaging with friends and colleagues is one of the great opportunities of campus life. However, we all must do so thoughtfully, with health and safety always top of mind. This includes on weekends when we all take advantage of opportunities to unwind and get away from the daily routines of work or classes. 

  • Keep your close contacts to a minimum. The number of people who are less than 6 feet from you should be as low as possible. Engineer your activities with that in mind.
  • If you need to interact with many people in a single day, keep your mask on, limit each interaction to under 15 minutes, and don’t stand closer than necessary.
  • Plan events outdoors when possible.
  • Plan events that don’t involve eating, drinking, or removal of masks (regardless of vaccine status). Be creative!
  • Plan events where people split into small groups, rather than uncontrolled mingling.
  • If you must provide group transportation for an activity, do so at reduced capacity to allow more distancing in the vehicle and monitor for universal mask compliance throughout the trip. 

Stay Informed & Aware
Going forward, we will continue to share updates to our protocols and guidance, as well as any necessary public health alerts. In the meantime, please continue to raise your own awareness of sources for information and what to expect as we track COVID-19 cases and work to keep our community safe. 

  • COVID-19 Data Reporting – The University maintains a dashboard that is updated daily with the current status of tests conducted, positive cases, current isolation and quarantine numbers, and current vaccination rates for our community.
  • Contact Tracing — Familiarize yourself with what you should expect when an HUHS contact tracer reaches out to you following a positive test result for yourself or if you are potentially a close contact with a known exposure to COVID-19.
  • Quarantine and Isolation – Based on public health protocols, the University has quarantine and isolation procedures in place. Here’s what you can expect if you test positive or are identified as a close contact with someone who has.
  • Health and Wellbeing – Your behavior matters. It protects you and those around you, including those who may be immunocompromised or have family or household members who are at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

Take Care of Yourself & Those Around You

The impacts of this pandemic continue to bring with it added stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Please take care of yourself and those around you. Be kind, considerate, and reach out if you need help. And if you know that someone is unvaccinated, be respectful and make no assumptions about their motivations. For mental health concerns, CAMHS Cares is available to students 24/7 at (617) 495-2042 and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to Harvard employees at (877) 327-4278.

Thank you again for all you are doing to Keep Harvard Healthy.


Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services