Grappling with its worst on-campus Covid-19 surge since the start of the pandemic, Harvard announced Thursday that it will require affiliates to receive Covid-19 booster shots during the spring semester.
The announcement comes as the school’s on-campus Covid numbers are at an all-time high. In an email to affiliates on Thursday, University administrators wrote that the Omicron variant is “likely already present” on campus.
Individuals who are unable to attain booster shots before they return to school in the spring will not be barred from campus, administrators wrote, promising affiliates “additional opportunities” to receive the shots.
In an email Thursday, University President Lawrence S. Bacow, Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, and Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen wrote that the presence of Omicron “should inform” affiliates’ behavior. The administrators called it “critical” that students follow public health measures including masking, social distancing, and testing.
“Our preliminary analysis indicates the Omicron variant is likely already present in COVID-19 cases we are seeing on campus,” the administrators wrote. “Individuals are not routinely notified of their variant status because public health guidelines are the same regardless of the variant involved.”
More than 270 Harvard affiliates — including 86 undergraduates — have tested positive for the virus in the last week, according to the University’s Covid-19 Testing Dashboard. Harvard’s positivity rate now stands at 0.68 percent, despite 97 percent of students and employees being fully vaccinated.
The University also announced Thursday that it will extend Covid-19 workplace policies enacted March 2020 through April 1, 2022. The policies include greater flexibility in sick time accrual and emergency absences for employees whose work has been disrupted by the pandemic.
Other peer institutions have also mandated booster shots amid the Covid surge, including Princeton, Brown, Boston University, and New York University.
On Thursday, Harvard University Dining Services shifted to grab and go dining amid the Covid-19 surge. Some large lecture classes have opted to give students the option to take final exams online, including Economics 1010a: “Intermediate Microeconomics.”
This story will be updated.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.