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COVID Update – Winter Break and Travel Guidance

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As we near the end of the semester and the winter recess, we once again want to emphasize the importance of taking steps to protect ourselves, our colleagues, and our loved ones. As expected, we have seen new cases of COVID-19 following Thanksgiving-related activities, but test positivity rates have remained low at Harvard. Thank you for your continued efforts to maintain the health of our community.

More broadly, COVID-19 cases continue to rise, including here in Massachusetts, largely driven for now by the Delta variant. We are also seeing an increasing presence of the Omicron variant here in the United States and around the world. We must continue to do what we can to reduce the risk of transmission, especially as many prepare for travel, including internationally, over the winter break.

Avoid Unmasked, Indoor Gatherings & Minimize Contact

As reading period ends and other academic activities wrap up for the semester, we know that there will be interest in end-of-semester social gatherings. Please avoid situations and activities that increase the risk of transmission to yourself and others. Continue to be thoughtful when socializing—minimize contact, wear masks indoors and in outdoor group settings where distancing is not possible, and eat and drink safely. Please be respectful of others’ comfort level and considerations in choosing to plan or attend social events. If you plan to attend higher risk events, such as crowded indoor gatherings in which you and others might not be wearing masks continuously, get a COVID-19 test far enough in advance to know the results. Do not attend social gatherings if you are feeling sick.

If Traveling, Monitor Conditions & Plan for Contingencies

There is still much we don’t know about the Omicron variant, but we have already seen its impact on border closures, quarantine policies, and testing requirements. Your decision to travel is personal, based on what is acceptable and feasible for you. If you are planning to travel, whether domestically or internationally:

  • Pay close attention to the specific requirements for your destination and return to Massachusetts.
  • Get a COVID-19 test early enough to ensure that you have a result before you leave. This reduces the chance that you might expose other travelers along your journey.
  • Keep in mind that requirements could change quickly, depending on local public health situations.
  • For international travelers especially, plan for contingencies that you may need to act on quickly, such as changing travel dates, meeting new quarantine or testing requirements, or adhering to public health requirements if you test positive for COVID-19.
  • Review Harvard Global Support Services advice to Harvard affiliates for developing a safe travel plan.

The University continues to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any updates to Harvard-related travel guidance. We urge you to stay up to date on any destination-specific policies and requirements relevant to your own anticipated travel.

Vaccine Boosters

COVID-19 vaccination is required for all members of the Harvard community and is the best defense against the coronavirus. If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster and haven’t yet received it, please make a booster appointment as soon as possible. For information on scheduling your booster, which is available through most area pharmacies, visit the University’s vaccine webpage. Remember to get your flu vaccine as well. It is fine to get both shots on the same day.

The added uncertainty brought on by rising COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant increases anxiety at a time when all of us are looking forward to the winter break, the holidays, and reconnecting with friends and family. Our adherence to behaviors that lower the risk of coronavirus transmission has served our community well over the course of this semester and will be just as important in the coming weeks.

Thank you again for your commitment to Keep Harvard Healthy. As we wrap up this fall semester, we have many reasons to be grateful. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber
Provost

Katie Lapp
Executive Vice President

Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services