Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
I write to again stress how important it is for each of us to remain diligent in our efforts to avoid transmission of the coronavirus. We continue to see here at Harvard and in the surrounding community the effects of the highly contagious Delta variant. While our Harvard community’s high vaccination rate is helping us avoid serious illnesses from COVID-19 infection, the continued spread of this virus represents a critical risk both on and off campus. We are observing that, even for vaccinated persons, infections can and do occur, particularly when individuals are exposed to large numbers of people in unmasked indoor settings.
We continue to identify positive cases in our community. However, our contact tracing has not indicated any evidence of transmission within our classrooms. The greatest risk continues to be off-campus social settings, large and small, where individuals are not masked. Please remember that activities away from campus can have ripple effects for the Harvard community.
We will adjust testing requirements as needed. Know your testing cadence.
Regular testing is required of anyone authorized to be on campus. Crimson Clear is your source for knowing your individual required testing frequency, although some subsets of the campus might at times receive instruction to test at a higher rate.
We will continue to adjust testing cadences for some populations within our community, as needed. In line with that, we have increased the testing cadence for Harvard Business School students to three times per week due to a rise in positive cases within that community. Additionally, HBS has also temporarily moved their first-year MBA students and some second-year students to remote learning through October 3.
As you are aware, people living in undergraduate housing were moved to more frequent testing cadences earlier this month, and we have since seen a decline in positive cases among that population, thanks to individual and group efforts to modify social behaviors.
Whether on or off campus, practice healthy behaviors that protect you and those around you.
- Masks are required indoors, on campus and in Boston and Cambridge.
- Wear your mask properly. Remove it only around your household/suite if possible.
- Use common sense outdoors. Wear a mask if you are around other people and can’t distance.
- Follow the “Quick Sip Rule” (lower your mask to take a drink and then replace it) and “Consume and Cover” when eating (consume your meal and then mask up immediately when finished).
- Keep your close contacts to a minimum. Limit interaction to under 15 minutes, don’t stand closer than necessary, and wear a mask.
- Socialize thoughtfully. Plan events and interactions that don’t involve eating, drinking or removal of masks.
A negative test does not mean let your guard down.
Testing is critical to our understanding of the pandemic and allows us to identify people who need isolation or quarantine. But remember that a negative test does not provide an excuse to remove your mask or ignore other guidance. An infected person might initially test negative but then convert to positive a day or more later. And remember that antigen tests are not as accurate as PCR. They can be a helpful tool, but don’t use them as a substitute for required PCR tests or a rationale to ignore other guidance.
If you feel sick, please stay home.
Members of the Harvard community are required to use Crimson Clear if you are experiencing symptoms, if you have tested positive outside of the University’s testing program or HUHS, or if you have a known COVID-19 exposure. Anyone with symptoms must stay home unless you are advised by HUHS that is it acceptable for you to return to campus. HUHS will reach out to you to provide advice on next steps you should take. Please be patient as you await our call.
Our recent experiences demonstrate clearly that we cannot yet resume a “life as usual” mentality. Life is “more” normal than it was in 2020, but please continue to be careful and remain committed to our efforts to Keep Harvard Healthy.
Giang T. Nguyen, M.D., M.P.H.
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services