COVID-19 guidance for HMS master’s and PhD students

Updated 12.17.20

NEW: Coronavirus Information for the HMS community (campus access, testing, vaccination, and more)

Important HMS Lab Reopening information (June 4)

All Harvard faculty, staff and students must follow the University's policies and guidelines found on the Harvard University coronavirus webpage. This page includes important guidance for remote courses, travel policies, campus restrictions and visiting or returning to campus.

For PhD students, please refer to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences' coronavirus webpage.


  • COVID Testing

    Any HMS student who will be living in a Harvard residence, coming to campus for required activities, or who wishes to obtain an HMS COVID-19 viral test, must do the following:

    Prior to Arrival on Campus:

    • Complete Harvard COVID-19 Safety Awareness Training
    • Verify your testing eligibility.
      • Login to Crimson Clear and go to “Profile”.
      • The COVID-19 Testing Information page will list your testing profile information.
      • Verify that you are listed as eligible with the appropriate cadence based on your individual status as described below. If you find that you are not listed as eligible, or if your cadence is incorrect, please contact your academic department.
    • Create your Color account (detailed instructions below). This is a critical step, as testing is required for campus access and you cannot obtain a test kit until you have successfully activated your Color account. If you do not complete this step prior to test pick-up, you may be delayed in getting a test, which will delay access to campus or clinical environments.

    Campus Access:

    • Any person who is symptomatic should contact their physician and not come to campus.
    • The HMS campus is considered closed with the exception of those who are authorized or have received an exception to be in HMS campus buildings.
    • EACH DAY that you come to campus, you must complete a Crimson Clear health attestation, which will remain active for 23 hours. We recommend that you complete Crimson Clear at home before heading to campus.

    COVID Viral Testing Frequency:

    Per the University’s Testing Policy:

    • If you live in Vanderbilt Hall or another Harvard residential building, you are assigned to testing “Cadence A,” and you must test 3 times per week. Test kits are provided to Vanderbilt residents on a weekly basis.
    • If you are a non-residential student, but you have been approved to be on HMS campus for 4 hours or more per week, you are assigned to testing “Cadence D,” and you must test 2 times per week.
    • If you are a non-residential student and you do not have a required campus presence (i.e. clerkship students), you are assigned to testing “Cadence D” and may test on an ad hoc basis, but you have no required weekly cadence for testing. Please note that you may receive pings from Color reminding you to test; however, non-residential students are only required to test for the weeks when on campus for 4 hours or more.

    Creating a Color Account

    • Visit using your computer or smartphone web browser.
    • Click “Sign In” (On a computer this is located top right in blue lettering. On a smartphone, click the three stacked lines on the top left of your screen and then “Sign In” is located at the bottom of the drop-down menu.)
    • Go to “Don’t have a color account?”, click on “Create One”, and fill in first name, last name, and email address. 
      • You may give a Harvard or personal email address, which will become your login name and the email address where you will receive testing notifications. A verification email will be sent to the email you provide, and you will need to access it to create your account. If you choose a non-Harvard email as your preferred email, you may be asked to provide your “organization” email address, which you may find at under “Official Email.” This site requires a HarvardKey login. You will need to access your Harvard email to verify your identity, but all future interactions will be with your preferred email address. Failure to authenticate via your Harvard email may result in delays in getting a test and access to campus or clinical environments.
    • After entering your email address and password, click the red “Create Account” button.
      • Troubleshooting for account creation errors: Log in to Crimson Clear, go to your “Profile,” and confirm that you are listed as eligible on the COVID Testing Information page. If you are not listed as eligible, contact your department. If you are listed as eligible, contact for assistance.
    • Once your account is created, you will be prompted to indicate what kind of testing. Click on “I’m interested in COVID-19 testing.”
    • When you go to pick up your kit(s), you will be asked to show the Color account “Activate a Kit” screen. You should not click “Activate a Kit” until you have picked up and are ready to administer your test.

    Obtaining a Test

    • Test kits can be picked up in the New Research Building (NRB) at 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur in the ground floor lobby according to the schedule below. Please note that hours are reduced during holiday weeks, including the weeks of December 21st and 28th.
    • Please enter through the 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur entrance and be ready to show the attendant your Harvard ID and the Color app displaying your eligibility.
    • Show your “Activate Kit” screen in your Color Account. This may be found on your dashboard. If you do not see it, go to the three stacked lines in the top left corner, and click on “Activate Kit.” 
    • When you are ready to take your test, click on the red “Activate Kit” button.
    • Complete the Pre-Test Survey (you will need to complete this every time you take a test)
    • Confirm your email, birthdate, and phone number
    • This will bring you to a graphic of the test tube on its side and ask for two barcode #’s. These numbers are found on the light blue card in your test envelope.
      • Enter the D # where prompted, DO NOT enter the dashes, numbers only.
      • Enter the C # where prompted
      • Confirm the numbers are correct
    • Once activated, you should receive both an email and text message, and you are ready to proceed with test administration.
    • Upon receipt of your test kit, you will be asked to exit the building through the double doors closest to the amphitheater.
    • You may not administer the test in any public area. You should test in your dorm room or other private space (i.e. campus restrooms). If testing outdoors, face away from others and maintain at least 8 feet of distance.

    Administering a Test

    • Each testing kit contains information on how to administer the self-test.
    • A helpful self-paced training module is also available in the Harvard Training Portal.
    • Please follow the steps detailed below.
      • Swab on the day that you will be dropping off your completed kit.
      • Activate the tube with your Color account so they know it is yours.
      • Wash your hands and find a clean place to test. Use only one tube each day.
      • Make sure to obtain the sample correctly.
      • Push the cap back on to the tube and make sure it is tightly secured.
      • Completely seal the bag so your tube doesn’t fall out.

    Dropping Off a Test

    • After collection, deposit your sample as soon as possible in the collection bin located in the NRB ground floor lobby near the stairs leading to the 1st floor and garage elevators.
    • Prior to depositing your completed test kit, please be sure to type the bar code numbers from your test kit tube into the “activate kit” screen in Color.
    • A list of all drop-off bin locations can be found here

    Testing Compliance

    You must test according to the frequency determined by your testing cadence, described above. HMS regularly monitors testing and Crimson Clear compliance data. You will get pinged by Color reminding you to test based on your cadence; however, non-residential students are only required to test for the weeks when you are on campus for 4 hours or more.










    Normal Hours

    8am – 12noon, and

    2pm – 4pm


    8am – 12noon, and

    2pm – 4pm


    8am – 12noon

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Week of Dec. 21

    8am – 12noon, and

    2pm – 4pm


    8 – 12 noon ONLY, must drop sample by noon

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Pick-up closed, Single Sample Collection at 2:30

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Week of Dec. 28

    6 am – 2 pm only; must drop sample by 2 pm

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    6 am – 12 noon only, must drop sample by 12 noon

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Pick-up and Sample Collection Closed

    Special Shift 8 am – 2 pm only, must drop sample by 2:30 pm

    Pick-up closed, Single Sample Collection at 2:30

  • Academics

    Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 courses will be held remotely for HMS master’s students.

    Will the move to virtual learning affect my F1 visa?

    Government guidance issued on March 10, 2020, assures Harvard that international students who are in the U.S. and currently hold valid student visas can participate in online classes without concern for their immigration status, provided they continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations.

    Should I still meet my mentor in person?

    Training in science requires careful advising and mentoring. The COVID-19 pandemic precludes the usual approach to advising meetings so meetings have been held over Zoom during the shutdown and the laboratory ramp-up. Now that many students and faculty in wet labs are coming to campus part of the time, many questions have arisen regarding small in-person meetings for graduate students at HMS.

     This note is to clarify the policy.

    There are no in-person meetings allowed for course work. 

    Faculty who are supervising a student for a rotation, dissertation work or thesis work may meet in person with a student only if this conforms to all the rules of the institution where the laboratory is located and options are provided to the student for a virtual meeting. All participants must wear masks and practice social distancing at any such in-person meetings, which can be held indoors in areas that allow two people to be present in the space or held outdoors. If a meeting is held on campus, access needs to be approved through the local institution.

    Faculty who are program advisors for a student are not required to hold in-person meetings, but they may opt to have an in-person meeting once during the semester. These meetings can be held indoors in areas that allow two people to be present in the space or held outdoors. The option of a virtual meeting must be provided to the student.

    There are no HMS-sponsored, in-person group activities for students, whether indoors or outdoors.

    Should I continue to pursue my laboratory research?

    HMS labs are open with occupancy restrictions in place. Please be in touch with your mentor to determine whether the lab can make accommodations for you to work in person. 

    If I have a role at an HMS-affiliated hospital with stricter policies/guidelines than HMS, whose guidelines should I follow?

    If your affiliated hospital has stricter policies/guidelines for travel, meetings, events, etc., please follow those specific policies/guidelines.

    Will there be any refund for changed classes?

    There will not be a refund for changed classes. Students will continue learning the same materials remotely.

    Are official deadlines for May 2021 degree period in place?

    Yes, official deadlines are still in place. Students with concerns about needing additional time to complete degree requirements should be in touch with their program director.

    Who should students contact with additional questions or concerns about this guidance?

    Students should contact Associate Dean for Graduate Education Johanna Gutlerner or Master’s Programs Senior Administrator Kim Lincoln in the Office for Graduate Education.

    Is there additional guidance available for graduate students who have teaching duties?

    The University has launched a new Teach Remotely website to provide faculty with best practices, tools and support for teaching classes online.

    How can I avoid or how will accommodations be made to disruptions to the research I am involved in?

    All faculty and program leadership are sensitive to students’ needs during this uncertain time. Special accommodations will be made on a case-by-case basis.

  • Graduating Students

    Is there guidance for preparing to deliver my master’s capstone or thesis virtually?

    Students will be informed about how to deliver their capstone or thesis projects by their program director and/or program manager.

    Will the May final thesis deadline be officially moved, or are we still operating with the May deadline?

    We are operating on the current official deadlines and will address those needing additional time as we normally would, on a case-by-case basis. 

    I am graduating in May; do I tell my family to continue making travel arrangements?

    Plans for the observance and celebration of 2021 Commencement and the local HMS ceremony have not been announced. Check the Harvard Commencement and HMS Graduation page for more information; an announcement is expected in February 2021 or soon after.

  • Health and Wellness

    This is a difficult time for us all. The pandemic is affecting our global community’s physical and mental health. Please take all the common-sense hygiene approaches: wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowds, wash hands frequently and well, and avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, etc. Monitor your temperature. If you are ill and have symptoms such as a cough, fever and/or muscle aches, contact Harvard University Health Services at 617-495-5711 or your doctor before going in. If you have been in direct contact with anyone with COVID-19, stay home and isolate yourself.

    Watch the HMS coping with coronavirus video series for help dealing with daily stress, anxiety and a range of other emotions.

    It is important to recognize that this is also a challenging time for mental health. Contact Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services for counseling and mental health resources.

    Although you are physically remote, remain virtually connected and engaged with our community. HMS and program staff are available for you by email and Zoom.

    Exercise, and get sleep.

    Additional mental health resources are being developed, and they will be shared on HMS web pages and by email as they come online. The Keep Harvard Healthy and Harvard Health Publishing’s Coronavirus Resource Center have additional information and resources for maintaining physical and mental health.

  • Housing

    Can we stay in our apartment if it is Harvard-owned, such as Harvard at Trilogy?

    If you live in a Harvard-owned property that is not a dormitory, you will not need to move.

    I live off-campus. Do I need to stay in Boston for virtual classes?

    As courses will be virtual until further notice, you do not need to remain in Boston unless your program requires an in-person component or you are working in the lab or clinic.  Please be in touch with your program for specific information.

    Will my visa be affected if I go home?

    Since the academic term will continue online, you are considered to be enrolled. Please direct any additional questions to the Harvard International Office.

    Who should students contact with questions or concerns about this guidance?

    Please direct questions regarding visas to the Harvard International Office.

  • Travel Restrictions

    What are the current policies regarding Harvard-organized and Harvard-funded international travel for students?

    Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions.

     Can I travel internationally on a Harvard-related trip?

    Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions or the petition process for University-related travel.

    Should I travel abroad for a personal trip?

    Harvard strongly discourages personal international travel until further notice. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Many governments have placed restrictions on travel, and all travelers must adhere to U.S. and state travel orders. All Harvard students and personnel authorized to come to campus must adhere to the University’s post-travel COVID testing and quarantine policy; Harvard requires testing and quarantine measures beyond the state’s requirements.

     For more information, review Harvard Global Support Services’ international travel guidance for more information and see the Harvard Travel Guidance FAQs.

    Can I petition to travel?

    Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions and the petition process for University-related travel.

    I am an international student. What is the latest guidance on obtaining or renewing my visa?

    Visit the Harvard International Office COVID-19 webpage for the latest immigration updates and advice.

    Are there restrictions for visiting or returning to campus?

    Travel can significantly increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 and thus we strongly discourage personal travel internationally and domestically. Anyone—including affiliates and invited guests—who returns or arrives to campus needs to review and comply with the Harvard Post-Travel COVID Testing and Quarantine Policy. Additional information can be found on the Harvard University Health Services guidance and FAQs page.

    My travel has been canceled, and I am worried about my academic progress? Who can I speak with?

    Contact your program director or program manager for guidance.

  • General Questions

    When will students be allowed to come back to campus?

    We don’t know this yet, but we are working diligently to bring all programs back to campus as soon as possible!