As of Tuesday, more than 100 new COVID-19 cases had been reported among Harvard affiliates this month as positivity rates continue to climb in Massachusetts.
The University reported 102 new coronavirus cases in the first 16 days of November — including 72 during the last week — among students, faculty, staff, and other affiliates who participate in its testing program, according to data from the University-wide COVID-19 testing dashboard.
The growing figure represents a sharp deviation from previous weeks. During October, Harvard reported 35 positive cases in total — including zero among undergraduates.
This month, 14 College students have tested positive, per the dashboard.
It is unclear whether the spread of the virus on campus contributed to the growth of infections among undergraduates. The University expanded its coronavirus testing program in September to serve nearly 500 off-campus College students living in the greater Cambridge area. Students who opted into the program received mailed testing kits to last through Nov. 22.
“Case investigation has revealed no cases within the last seven days involving suspected disease transmission within the workplace or educational settings,” a Nov. 17 note on the University dashboard website states.
According to Harvard University Health Services’ contact tracing procedures, the University requires affiliates to isolate for up to two weeks after receiving notice of a positive COVID-19 test result. Similarly, HUHS mandates a quarantine for individuals exposed to someone who tests positive. There are currently 85 Harvard affiliates in isolation and 227 in quarantine, the dashboard reports.
The spike in Harvard coronavirus cases comes as undergraduates living in campus dorms prepare to move out by Sunday and return home for the remainder of the fall semester. Harvard Business School announced Saturday it will transition to remote learning and restrict on-campus activities in light of increasing infection rates on its campus.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard is “monitoring closely and engaging with public health officials” in response to the rise in COVID-19 infections on campus and in Cambridge.
HUHS Director Giang T. Nguyen thanked Harvard affiliates in a Monday email for their efforts to “limit the spread of the virus across our community,” but urged them to “remain vigilant” in the face of a nationwide increase in case numbers.
“It is critically important that we remain vigilant,” he wrote. “In fact, we have already heard from increasing numbers of students, faculty, and staff who have reported exposure to infected persons within their households and extended family.”
Nguyen wrote that “testing alone is not sufficient to keep the pandemic at bay,” asking affiliates to distance, wear face coverings, and practice personal hygiene.
“I know that many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue. It has been a long road,” he wrote. “But, now as much as ever, it is crucial that we continue practicing the preventive behaviors that have helped to keep our communities safe to this point.”
—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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