Skip to main content

COVID Update – Transition to Optional Testing Program

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

In the coming weeks, the University will cease to require regular surveillance testing. Testing will continue to be available on an optional basis, and anyone with symptoms or known exposure should continue to test. The transition to optional testing is informed by the guidance of public health officials and the experts who have been advising the University throughout the pandemic. Universal testing in the absence of symptoms no longer plays the important role that it did in months past, when infection posed a much greater risk.

Although the rate of positive tests in our community has increased in recent weeks, there has not been a corresponding rise in the hospitalization rate, an important indicator of the severity of infection. High vaccination and booster rates, along with other advances such as the availability of effective treatments, have contributed to the declining toll of COVID in our community. We encourage you to read a Gazette Q&A with two of our COVID advisers to learn more about the thinking behind this decision.

Transition to Optional Testing
The transition to optional testing will be phased in as follows: 

  • April 28 – Non-Residential: Students, faculty, staff, and researchers who do not live on campus will no longer be required to participate in regular COVID testing.
  • May 10 – Residential: Students, faculty, staff, and researchers who live in campus-based residential housing will no longer be required to test for COVID regularly.

Optional Testing Can Help Inform Your Behaviors
Symptomatic testing remains important while COVID continues to circulate in the community. Although regular testing will no longer be mandatory, we encourage testing when circumstances warrant, using Harvard’s Color testing program or rapid antigen tests that are now widely available. Test results can inform your behaviors as you consider visiting with friends and loved ones, coming to campus for work or class, attending events, or traveling. Keep in mind that many members of our community, along with family and friends, are vulnerable to complications from COVID. 

Anyone with symptoms or known exposure should test, and those who test positive should notify HUHS through Crimson Clear.

Lower Your Risk
If you are concerned about potential exposure to COVID, you can reduce your own risk by wearing a high-quality mask that fits securely without air gaps. This offers excellent protection even in the presence of unmasked persons. We highly encourage the voluntary use of masks in crowded settings, including airplanes and public transit. Everyone should continue to carry a mask when coming to campus in case it becomes necessary to wear it. 

For Those with Higher Risk
We know that some in our community are at increased risk of COVID complications. However, vaccination and boosters can greatly benefit older persons, those with chronic conditions like diabetes or lung disease, and immunocompromised persons. Those with moderate or severe immune compromise should also consult their physician about treatment that can be used in advance of an infection. Any higher risk person who becomes infected and develops symptoms should speak immediately to their healthcare provider about medications that can reduce the risk of worsening disease. 

Doing Our Part to Protect Those at Higher Risk
Each of us can do our part to protect those in our community who are at increased risk. Stay home if you have symptoms and wear a mask if you must interact with other people while sick, even if your COVID test is negative. Respect those who wear a mask in mask-optional settings. Remember that each person’s risks are different. Nobody should need to explain why they choose to wear a mask. 

Finally, a few reminders about testing and isolation protocols:

  • If you have symptoms or an exposure, test yourself using a Color or rapid antigen test. 
  • If you test positive, isolate for at least 5 days, adhere to strict masking guidance around other people for the full 10 days, and notify your close contacts. 
  • Let HUHS know through Crimson Clear if you test positive outside of Harvard’s testing program.
  • Let HUHS know if you are admitted to the hospital, so we can offer support and guidance as well as understand the severity of illness in our community.
  • Activate MassNotify on your phone to participate in voluntary electronic contact tracing.

We understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on everyone over the past two years. With improving health conditions, and the removal of mask and testing requirements, we can focus more of our energy on the diverse activities that have made life at Harvard so exciting and rewarding. We will continue to monitor hospitalization rates and other indicators of disease activity on campus to ensure that our policies and protocols are effective without being unnecessarily burdensome. 

Best wishes for the end of the spring semester, and thank you as always for doing your part to keep Harvard healthy.

Sincerely,

Lawrence S. Bacow
President

Alan M. Garber
Provost

Katie Lapp
Executive Vice President

Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services