We have heard from many of you who are both eager and anxious about a return to in-person training this fall. Our students are likely feeling all of these same emotions. While many of us are yearning to be back in person together, there will be new concerns and we will have to adapt new ways of interacting in and out of the classroom. We are writing to ensure you know the latest protocols for COVID-19 precautions related to in person instruction. The methods for safely transitioning to in person instruction are vaccinations, masking and testing. As you know, all students, faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated unless they have a medical or religious exemptions.
Harvard University requires masks and face coverings indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks and face coverings are no longer required outdoors for those who have been fully vaccinated. For those not fully vaccinated, masks are required outdoors for those who cannot maintain a 6-foot distance from others. When indoors, masks can only be removed when alone in a private office, or to eat in an approved eating location where there is 6-foot distancing between people.
COVID-19 testing: All students will be tested at least weekly.
If one of your students tests positive for COVID-19 and reaches out to you directly:
- Inform the student that if they have tested through the Harvard Color system, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) will be in touch with them as soon as possible (though it may not be immediate). HUHS contact tracers typically reach out to people between 8:00am and midnight. Someone who tests positive should be sure to answer all phone calls, even those from numbers they do not recognize, because it could be a contact tracer calling. If the student’s test was not through Harvard, they should let HUHS know immediately through the Self-Assessment in Crimson Clear (this will help to reduce the volume of phone calls to HUHS).
- Respect the privacy of the student. Do not inform other students or TFs in the class that a student has tested positive, or share the name of the student. The student will decide whether and with whom they want to share this information, as determined with HUHS. Contact tracing and communication should be guided by our experts. If you have students or TFs who learn that a student has tested positive, and want more information on next steps, you should ask them to carefully read the guidance on Harvard’s relevant sites – see below – and contact HUHS if they have additional questions.
- The next steps for the student who tested positive, and others in the class, will be handled by HUHS. HUHS will determine how long the student needs to quarantine (usually a minimum of 10 days) and the next steps for close contacts. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine but will be subject to additional testing requirements. HUHS will also let a very limited number of local/School contacts know, including the Dean for Graduate Education and select staff in the HMS Office for Graduate Education. That designated person will reach out to the student to make sure they have academic accommodations in place, and any other support that they need. That person will work with the student and instructors as necessary to make sure those accommodations are understood.
- All instructors should have in mind what students can do to keep up with their academic work. Imagine what you would have done pre-COVID if someone had a medical emergency and would be out of class for up to two weeks. NOTE: You should not allow students to miss class or be remote without their having a formal accommodation, e.g., because they feel worried about exposure for themselves or a family member. For equity reasons all individuals need to go through a formal accommodation process.
If you test positive for COVID-19 through the Harvard Color system. The guidance is very similar:
- HUHS will be in touch with you as soon as possible (though it may not be immediate). HUHS contact tracers typically reach out to people between 8:00am and midnight. You should be sure to answer all phone calls, even those from numbers you do not recognize, because it could be a contact tracer calling. If your test was not through Harvard, let HUHS know immediately through the Self-Assessment in Crimson Clear (this will help to reduce the volume of phone calls to HUHS).
- Do not begin contacting students or other colleagues at the school whom you imagine might be close contacts. Contact tracing and communication should be guided by our experts through HUHS. They will determine how long you need to quarantine (usually a minimum of 10 days) and the next steps for communicating with close contacts. Close contacts who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine but will be asked to test several times over the next 7-8 days. HUHS also will be checking in to make sure you have the support that you need.
- All instructors should have a back-up plan for if testing positive. If you feel well enough to teach, in this instance it is okay to teach via Zoom for the prescribed quarantine time and it will not impact our students’ visa status. As students are likely to be on campus and may find it difficult to find quiet spaces to participate individually via zoom, one option is to arrange with IT to zoom into the classroom where your course normally takes place. Please make sure you have a contingency plan in place for the event that you do not feel well enough to teach or because you have children or other family members who test positive, such as a back-up instructor, much the same as you would pre-COVID if you were unable to teach.
Detailed information is provided on the University’s Keep Harvard Healthy site and detailed guidance is also provided on this Harvard Key-protected and regularly updated Harvard Environmental Health & Safety Guidance for on Campus Activity site.
The past year has taught us that appropriately ventilated classrooms are quite safe when effective health protocols are in place. If we each do our utmost to adhere to the school’s safety practices we will be able to enjoy the many benefits of in-person learning.
Thank you for all of your perseverance, flexibility, and dedication to the teaching mission of HMS.
Roz and Johanna
ROSALIND A. SEGAL, MD PhD
Dean for Graduate Education
JOHANNA L. GUTLERNER, PhD
Associate Dean for Graduate Education