Harvard University Health Services Advises Some Students Who Returned From China to 'Maintain Social Distance' Amid Coronavirus Outbreak


Harvard University Health Services advised some students who recently returned to campus from China to “maintain social distance” of at least six feet from others amid a growing global coronavirus outbreak, according to an email obtained by The Crimson.

Chinese officials have reported 28,018 cases of coronavirus to date and cases have been confirmed in 24 other countries. On Feb. 2, the U.S. State Department issued its highest level of travel advisory for China — suggesting that Americans “Do Not Travel” to the country. There are now 12 confirmed cases in the United States, including one student attending the University of Massachusetts, Boston. As of Wednesday evening, that remains the lone reported case of coronavirus in the state.

University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and HUHS Director Giang T. Nguyen sent an email to all Harvard affiliates on Sunday with a health form for those who returned from China after Jan. 18 or are currently in China to fill out in order to receive further guidance from HUHS.

On Tuesday, HUHS updated its website and advised those who have returned from China since Jan. 19 to fill out the form.


The email obtained by The Crimson, sent to a student who filled out the form and indicated they did not show any telltale symptoms of the virus, states that the student should nonetheless avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, which “accelerates the spread of infections.”

The email also advised maintaining a six-foot “social distance” as often as possible in the 14 days following departure from China, as well as washing hands “often” and not sharing various utensils and toiletries. It also advised reaching out to HUHS if any symptoms of the coronavirus — including a cough, fever, and shortness of breath — develop.

The email states that HUHS will continue to monitor the outbreak and that advice is based on all currently available information, even for those unlikely to contract or spread coronavirus.

“While you may be at low risk of carrying the infection, we advise this out of an abundance of caution,” the email reads.

—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23.