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COVID Update — Monitoring Omicron Variant

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

We are monitoring developments from the COVID-19 Omicron variant. As public health experts and other leaders have said, this new variant is a cause for concern, but it will take time before there is a better understanding of its ease of spread, the severity of the illness it causes, and the protection from existing vaccines. We recognize that the uncertainties about this new variant raise questions and anxieties for many. We will update our health and safety guidance as needed and will let you know about any changes. 

As of now, we have not seen a confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the United States. Experts believe that it is already here, however, and we are seeing increased transmission of COVID-19 across the country, including the Delta variant. An increase was anticipated with the onset of winter and is among the reasons why it is important that we continue to take steps to protect ourselves, our colleagues and loved ones. For now, we ask you to keep a few things in mind:

  • Vaccination: The best weapon against the coronavirus, including the Omicron variant, continues to be vaccination. We strongly encourage boosters for everyone who is eligible. For more information on scheduling your vaccination or booster, visit the University’s vaccine webpage.
  • Healthy Habits Matter: Your commitment to Keep Harvard Healthy has kept transmission of the coronavirus on campus low throughout this semester. Healthy habits remain as important as ever — wear your mask properly indoors and outdoors in crowds; be thoughtful when socializing, including minimizing contact and eating and drinking safely; and if you feel sick, stay home and report your symptoms to Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) through Crimson Clear. Additionally, if you haven’t already, please schedule a time to receive your flu vaccine through one of HUHS’s upcoming flu vaccine clinics or through your healthcare provider or pharmacy.
  • Post-Travel Protocols and Testing Cadences: With many of us returning from Thanksgiving break travel, it’s important that you follow post-travel protocols, including testing on your first day back on campus and adhering to your required testing cadence going forward.
  • Travel Guidance: The University is committed to facilitating safe travel. We have not made any changes to the University’s travel policy in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant at this time. However, increased transmission, the emergence of new variants, and destination-specific policies may continue to affect your travels. If you are planning Harvard-related travel in the weeks ahead, do your research, plan, and be prepared for the possibility of disruptions. Check the University’s travel guidance webpage for requirements before your departure.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, some of the world’s leading public health and medical experts are advising the University. The Harvard Gazette spoke with three of these experts about the University’s pandemic management to date and our monitoring of the situation regarding the Omicron variant. 

Thank you again for your commitment to Keep Harvard Healthy. 

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber
Provost

Katie Lapp
Executive Vice President

Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services