Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
With our on-campus population growing significantly over the last week, we anticipated a rise of COVID-19 cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. While our current 1.24% positivity rate is higher than what we saw in the fall semester (typically 0.2% or less), it is lower than where we were in the first week of January, when the campus-wide positivity rate was nearly 5%.
Thanks to the high vaccination rate of our community, we continue to see mild cases. However, our case numbers are still high, and we must remain committed to behaviors that reduce risk of virus transmission. We should keep in mind that clinically mild infections can still include significant symptoms. By continuing to mask, distance, test regularly, and minimize close contact, we can maintain a safe academic, research, and work environment for everyone. This also allows us to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable to complications from the COVID-19. These public health measures are important whether you are on or off campus.
University Booster Requirement
Monday (January 31) is the deadline to meet the University’s booster requirement for all community members who are eligible—including students, faculty, staff, and researchers.
- Please verify your booster dose by visiting the HUHS Patient Portal. Instructions are on the Verify Your Vaccination webpage.
- If you haven’t already received your booster and are eligible, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. HUHS is offering both Moderna and Pfizer boosters at its Booster Clinics. Appointments are now available and can be scheduled through the HUHS Patient Portal.
- Individuals who have not received a booster by February 1 will not be barred from campus. If you are scheduled for an HUHS vaccine clinic appointment after January 31 you will be considered compliant with the University’s booster requirement.
- Persons who received their primary vaccine series outside the United States should seek a booster with any WHO-approved vaccine available to them (mixing of vaccine brands is acceptable).
- If you are not yet eligible to receive the booster, your deadline will be 30 days after you become eligible. Please do not try to get your booster early.
- Individuals with an approved exemption will not need to submit additional documentation but should remember that lack of vaccination increases risk for infection and medical complications. If your prior reason for exemption no longer exists, we encourage you to get vaccinated and submit that information to us.
If you have recently been infected with COVID-19 (with or without symptoms), but have not previously received a booster, you can get a booster shot as soon as your isolation period is complete and you are symptom-free (please seek guidance from your personal healthcare provider). Assuming that you reported your infection date to HUHS and you otherwise would have been eligible for the booster, your deadline will be extended 30 days beyond your infection date. To extend beyond 30 days, a medical exemption form signed by your personal healthcare provider must be submitted.
Masking Indoors is Required and Reduces Risk
In line with Cambridge and Boston masking requirements, indoor masking is required in all Harvard campus facilities. Masks continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of transmission regardless of vaccine status. To assure the best protection, masks should fully cover both the nose and mouth, fitting tightly with no air gaps. We encourage the use of high-quality disposable masks, such as surgical-style mask or a cup-style protective mask such as KN-95, which can layered under a form-fitting fabric mask to ensure good filtration as well as an effective seal. Above all, choose a mask that provides a secure fit and that you can reliably wear for extended periods of time without needing adjustment.
We understand the fatigue everyone is feeling with the pandemic now hitting the two-year mark and continuing to create challenges for all of us in our academic, work, and personal lives. The Harvard Gazette recently spoke with leaders of our Counseling and Mental Health Services about support for the mental health and wellbeing of our community members as we return for the spring semester. Looking ahead, public health experts anticipate the most recent Omicron-driven surge will be in decline in the coming weeks. The policies and protocols we have put in place enable us to continue on-campus academic activities, while also keeping our community safe. Thank you for all you are doing to keep Harvard healthy.
Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services