Harvard Administrators Praise Initial Success of Coronavirus Rules


Harvard College’s social distancing guidelines have proved an initial success, administrators say, after returning students completed a rigorous testing process and two-staged quarantine last week.

In a Friday email to students, the Harvard College Housing Office praised those living on campus for taking the College’s COVID-19 rules “seriously.”

While students were previously only permitted to gather in groups of two while in the second phase of quarantine, the office announced that Harvard has since expanded this to groups of up to five students. They attributed the decision to the “success” of undergraduates’ first few weeks on campus.

Starting Tuesday, all undergraduates who have received three negative coronavirus tests may begin socializing in groups of up to 10 while maintaining at least six feet of separation. While eating, they may gather in groups no larger than four students


Harvard announced in July that all undergraduate classes would be taught virtually, welcoming freshmen — in addition to certain upperclassmen — to spend their fall semester on campus. Those invited to live in residence began trickling into campus last Sunday, completing an initial COVID-19 test and initial 24-hour quarantine in their dorm room upon arrival.

Once students received a negative test result, they entered a slightly more liberal stage of quarantine, which allowed them to leave their residences for 30-minute intervals. After two additional negative tests, they were allowed to move freely about, though expected to abide by the College’s social distancing and masking rules.

Harvard’s guidelines appear to have brought relative success compared to other universities.

Unlike schools which backtracked reopening plans shortly after students arrived, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard’s protocols have initially proven effective at limiting transmission among students. As of Monday, the University has only logged three positive cases among undergraduates, though it anticipated — and prepared for — up to 50 positive results as students returned.

Other institutions have disciplined students for violating residential guidelines. On the other side of the Charles River, Northeastern University announced it had dismissed 11 students who violated school and public health guidelines by gathering in a crowded hotel room. Harvard has so far not publicly announced any disciplinary action for similar violations.

Harvard’s newly formed Community Council — partially composed of student volunteers — will adjudicate alleged violations of the community compact, a set of guidelines to which all residential students agreed before accepting their Harvard housing.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.