Harvard will end university-provided isolation housing for students who test positive for COVID-19 and will no longer conduct contact tracing — leaving students who test positive responsible for their own self-isolation and contract tracing.
Students who test positive for the virus will be required to self-isolate in their dorms for five days, according to the Harvard Crimson. This isolation will be followed by five days of strict mask-wearing in accordance with CDC guidelines, provided that students are either asymptomatic or have "resolving" symptoms, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) Director Giang T. Nguyen wrote in an email sent to students.
HUHS will no longer call students who test positive, but will only reach out via email. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine unless they are experiencing symptoms, according to the Crimson.
Isolation and alternative housing will still be options for students who test positive and their close contacts. If their roommates test positive, students can apply for alternative housing, given that they are asymptomatic and test negative. Priority will be given to immunocompromised students and those living in a suite where all other students have tested positive.
While Penn has also adjusted their isolation policy to match the CDC's current recommendations of five days of isolation and five days of masking for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, students in on-campus housing who test positive are still being moved to isolation facilities.
Nguyen cites the lack of severe symptoms among the vast majority of positive cases, the stark increase in cases compared to the fall semester, and Harvard's "near universal vaccination" for the changes, which were made in accordance with public health agencies and expert recommendations, the Crimson reported.
Harvard is reporting a seven-day positivity rate of 2.46% as of Jan. 18, according to the Harvard COVID-19 testing dashboard. The university plans to provide rapid antigen tests to all students arriving on campus, place HEPA filters in all bedrooms and bathrooms, and acquire KN95 masks to distribute upon request.
Penn's COVID-19 positivity rate was 6.91% for the week of Jan. 9 to Jan. 15 — down from 13.47% for the prior week — and the on-campus isolation capacity available is 23.3% as of Jan. 18. In-person classes are currently scheduled to resume Jan. 24.
Similar to Penn's spring semester COVID-19 policies, Harvard required all members of the university community to receive booster shots by Jan. 31, or 30 days after becoming eligible. Harvard also switched to grab-and-go meals in campus dining halls for the first two weeks of the semester, and students who test positive will receive meals in a separate location.