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COVID Updates and Monkeypox Guidance

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

I hope the summer is going well for each of you. It’s hard to believe we are already at the beginning of August. In anticipation of the fall semester, I want to share the University’s COVID-19 preparation plans as well as some information about monkeypox.

As always, our decisions on how best to combat any public health concerns on campus are informed by the guidance of medical officials as well as the experts who have been advising the University throughout the pandemic.

Although many communities have resumed pre-pandemic activities, it is important to remember that COVID infections continue to affect the public. As of early August, over 80 percent of counties in the U.S. have medium or high COVID-19 community risk levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Community risk is currently medium in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties. Thanks to high immunity levels, many infections are mild. However, hospitals continue to see serious illness, especially among older persons, those with chronic medical conditions, and people who are not up to date on vaccination. Infection requires strict isolation, so it can be disruptive even if it does not cause severe illness. Finally, there is still much to be learned about long COVID.

Current COVID-19 Plans for Fall 2022:

  • Masking on Campus: Masking is optional except in health care settings and where otherwise required for non-COVID reasons (e.g., some laboratories). Please check with your school about any additional masking protocols that are specific to your setting. Even when optional, we strongly encourage indoor mask use, especially if local COVID-19 risks are medium or high.
  • Arrival Testing for Students: Rapid antigen testing is required upon arrival for all residential students and highly encouraged for students who live off-campus. Students living in residence halls will have an arrival antigen test provided at move-in.
  • Antigen and PCR Testing During Fall: Antigen testing is a fast, convenient, and reliable way to test when you have symptoms or want confirmation of your COVID status. Everyone is eligible for eight free antigen tests a month through your private insurance and I highly recommend you take advantage of this benefit. For anyone who is covered under the University’s Express Scripts program, we have developed  a brief tutorial on how to order your free test kits. University-sponsored optional PCR testing through Color is available until Friday, September 16. Individuals are welcome to, but are not required to, use this option until the program ends.
  • Positive results from antigen and external PCR tests: If you tested positive for COVID via a test conducted outside of Harvard’s testing program, please report your result to HUHS via Crimson Clear.
  • Isolation Guidance: HUHS will continue to offer guidance through automated email.  Infected persons should continue to notify their close contacts directly. HUHS staff will support people with complex medical situations as needed.
  • Treatment: Remember that treatment is available for infected persons who exhibit symptoms—even when mild—if the individual is  medically high-risk or age 50+. Early treatment can prevent severe illness and hospitalization. The state has established a convenient free telehealth service for higher-risk people interested in oral Paxlovid prescriptions.
  • Pre-Treatment for People with Immune Suppression: If you have moderate or severe immune suppression, speak to the health care provider who manages this condition. You might be eligible for Evusheld treatment, which offers extra protection against COVID-19 for people whose immune system cannot produce sufficient protection through vaccination. Evusheld should be repeated every six months for continued protection.
  • COVID-19 Vaccinations for Students: Students must be up-to-date according to the CDC definition. Students who fail to meet University vaccine requirements will be blocked from course registration. HUHS continues to offer COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
  • COVID-19 Vaccinations for Employees: Employees must be fully vaccinated (primary series), and we strongly encourage all employees to be up-to-date according to CDC guidelines. Compliance for the primary series is still being monitored by local HR units.

A Few Words About Monkeypox:

Monkeypox has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 9,000 people in the USA have been diagnosed with monkeypox already, and cases have been seen in Massachusetts, including in the Boston area.  HUHS is prepared to offer guidance about monkeypox as needed.

Mutual respect is a core value, so I ask that we all avoid any language or behaviors that stigmatize individuals or communities with monkeypox infections. While the media has largely focused on sexual transmission routes of this infection, it is important to understand there are other routes of transmission, including direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs, or body fluids and touching items (linens and clothing) previously touched by infectious rashes or body fluids. More information on monkeypox can be found at:

This is an evolving situation, and as such the state and HUHS continues to build capacity for testing and vaccine referral. HUHS is monitoring the situation on campus and is working closely with public health authorities. If you are seeking vaccine referral or an evaluation for suspected monkeypox infection or exposure, contact HUHS at (617) 495-5711 for an assessment and instructions.

As we have done for the last two academic years, we will continue to monitor state and local data on these public health matters, look to scientific experts, and draw from our campus and clinical experience to help guide future decisions. We are prepared to pivot to more extensive protections, such as new mask guidance, if warranted by changes in public health conditions.

Enjoy the rest of summer and, as always, thank you for doing your part to keep Harvard healthy.

Sincerely,

 Giang Nguyen
 Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services