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Increase in COVID-19 Cases, Take Steps to Protect Yourself & Our Community

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

It is exciting to have the fall semester now underway, and it is especially wonderful to see so many students returning to campus. Many campuses across the nation are now facing high numbers of COVID-19 infections, so I am writing to encourage that we all act with increased caution in the days and weeks ahead. Vaccination, regular testing, and masking are the foundations of Harvard’s health and safety measures, and we must remain diligent in our behavior and efforts to keep ourselves and our community healthy and safe.

The Delta variant continues to spread nationally and locally. We are glad to report that we have high vaccination rates across our on-campus community, as of September 1: 95% for employees and 93% for students. Vaccination can prevent serious illness, but vaccinated persons can still become infected and can pass it to others. While vaccination is one of the most important layers of protection for our campus, we must maintain all our safeguards. In the last seven days, we’ve identified 94 new COVID-19 cases. This pandemic is not over.

Follow Your Testing Requirements

COVID-19 testing requirements remain in place for every member of the community who is authorized to be on campus, including those who come to campus infrequently. 

  • With the rise in cases in the last week, we are increasing the testing cadence for anyone living in undergraduate housing to three (3) times per week.
  • Please continue to follow your required testing frequency, which you can confirm by logging into Crimson Clear.
  • Please obtain test kits through your School/Unit. HUHS does not distribute test kits.
  • If you have a recurring presence on campus and are not yet enrolled in the campus testing program, contact your School/Unit testing coordinator

Socialize Thoughtfully to Protect Yourself & Those Around You

As you engage across the community and socialize with friends and colleagues, please do so thoughtfully, with health and safety always top of mind. 

  • Keep your close contacts to a minimum. The number of people who are less than 6 feet from you should be as low as possible. Engineer your activities with that in mind.
  • If you need to interact with many people in a single day, keep your mask on, limit each interaction to under 15 minutes, and don’t stand closer than necessary.
  • Plan events outdoors when possible.
  • Plan events that don’t involve eating, drinking, or removal of masks (regardless of vaccine status). Be creative!
  • Plan events where people split into small groups, rather than uncontrolled mingling.
  • If you must provide group transportation for an activity, do so at reduced capacity to allow more distancing in the vehicle and monitor for universal mask compliance throughout the trip.
  • Consume and cover! Consume your meal and immediately mask up when done. Conversation, checking email, and other activities should be masked, even when you are in a designated indoor dining area.
  • Dine in small parties of 2-to-4 people. Avoid table-hopping. Consider dining consistently with the same small group of people rather than a different group at every meal of the day.
  • Mask indoors and wear your mask properly, fitting securely over your nose, mouth, and chin. Ensure a secure fit around mask edges.
  • Remove your mask only around your household/suite if possible.
  • Use common sense when outdoors. Wear a mask if you are shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd.
  • If you are unvaccinated, you are required to mask outdoors whenever you are within 6 feet of other people. You must also maintain distance from others when dining indoors. 

Test Before & After Any Travel

  • If you plan to travel, submit a test the day before you go, rather than the day of departure. That ensures time for you to receive test results, and not put others you encounter on your travel at risk.
  • When you return, test immediately and limit your number of close contacts until you receive your test results, and preferably for the week after your return.
  • If you are traveling out of state or internationally, please review and follow the latest travel guidance.

Boston & Cambridge Indoor Mask Mandates

Harvard’s indoor mask requirement has remained in place since spring 2020. In the last several days, both Boston and Cambridge have announced that they are re-instating their indoor mask mandates. Please adhere to these mask requirements on and off campus to lessen risk for yourself, as well as other members of our local community. We will continue to update you on any changes to Harvard’s policies and guidance.

HUHS is Conducting Contact Tracing 

Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) will continue to conduct contact tracing for all positive cases and will inform close contacts, as appropriate, and provide guidance to those individuals on next steps they should take. 

  • Please answer the phone if we call, even if you are not expecting us.
  • Familiarize yourself with what you should expect when an HUHS contact tracer reaches out to you following a positive test result for yourself or if you are potentially a close contact with a known exposure to COVID-19.

If You Feel Sick, Stay Home, Use Crimson Clear

Stay home if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. You are also required to inform HUHS using Crimson Clear if you are experiencing symptoms, have tested positive outside of the University’s testing program or HUHS, or have a known COVID-19 exposure. HUHS will reach out to you to provide advice on next steps you should take. Please be patient as you await our call.

Please do not come to HUHS Urgent Care for a rapid COVID-19 test, simply for reassurance. If you are not sick enough to require medical attention, please stay home. If you do need medical attention at HUHS Urgent Care, call first, do not walk in, so that our medical staff can advise you on next steps.

Be Kind, Thoughtful & Take Care of Yourself & Those Around You

We know that the last 18 months have brought anxieties, stress, and trauma. Inclusion and respect are core values of our Harvard community. As we all continue to navigate an unpredictable and challenging pandemic, please take care of yourself, be kind to those around you, and reach out if you need help. For mental health concerns, CAMHS Cares is available to students 24/7 at (617) 495-2042 and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to Harvard employees at (877) 327-4278.

Thank you again for your commitment to Keeping Harvard Healthy.


Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services