Harvard Medical School continues to prioritize, above all, the health and safety of our community. Following guidance from both the CDC and University leadership, HMS has adapted its campus policies in order to bolster our individual and collective health and safety. Information about current COVID-19 and related policies and procedures is detailed below. Please also refer to the latest and full University-wide guidance and protocols on the Harvard University Health Services COVID-19 Information webpage.
An Omicron subvariant known as XBB.1.5 is currently driving an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the country. It accounts for more than 40 percent of COVID cases and is believed to be highly contagious. Though the subvariant might cause infection even among people with immunity, it appears that vaccination does blunt severe reactions to the virus. However, short-term illness and long COVID are still a concern, and people at highest risk should remain cautious. Overall, there is high respiratory virus activity across the United States. Please take steps to protect yourself and others from contracting—or spreading—COVID-19 or other viruses.
Thank you for doing your part to Keep HMS Healthy.
- Feeling Sick? Stay home and contact your care provider if you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19. Visit the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV for more information about COVID-19, including frequently asked questions about symptoms, how to protect yourself, what to do if you're sick, and other pertinent information.
- Testing: Harvard no longer requires surveillance testing for COVID-19, however all individuals with an on-campus presence are encouraged to test before/after travel and when there is increased risk or suspicion about COVID-19 infection. Visit the HUHS website for more information about rapid antigen tests, including how to obtain them free of charge, and external PCR testing.
- Test before campus arrival: Recent travel and indoor gatherings may have exposed you to respiratory illness. To ensure that you have not contracted COVID-19, take an at-home antigen test before travelling to campus for the first time, regardless of whether you have symptoms. For information on how to acquire free antigen tests, visit Harvard University Health Services.
If traveling from China, Hong Kong, or Macau, plan for required testing: In response to a significant surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now requires anyone traveling to the United States from China, Hong Kong, or Macau, including anyone traveling from Seoul, Toronto, and Vancouver who has been in China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the past 10 days, to show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than two days before their flight, or to show documented recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. This mandate may require advance planning to avoid flight delays. Be ready for the possibility of delays and have backup plans to avoid missing responsibilities on campus.
- Testing Positive for COVID-19: Students and employees no longer need to report a positive COVID-19 case to HUHS (Crimson Clear and the University contact tracing team have been retired as of Dec. 22, 2022). Anyone who tests positive will manage their isolation independently by referring to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Medical questions should be directed to your primary care provider.
- Students who test positive for COVID-19 should refer to local school resources for information and protocols. This will be similar to approaches that have been used in the past for illnesses in general.
- Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should notify their manager of the test result and their expected return-to-work date. Employees and their managers should work together following standard HR policies.
- Health care and childcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 are still expected to follow the return-to-work testing requirement until the CDC issues further guidance.
- Masking: Masks and face coverings are optional in all indoor and outdoor spaces on the HMS, Longwood, and Harvard campuses, with one exception noted below. COVID-19 is still prevalent, as are other respiratory illnesses including influenza and RSV. As such, HMS advocates a commonsense approach to masking based on the environment and circumstances. We encourage you to carry a mask with you at all times in case you need it, especially in crowded or unventilated indoor settings and on public transit. High-quality, well-fitting disposable masks—such as KN95s and KF94s—worn in a way that minimizes air gaps around the edges are strongly encouraged.
- Important Note: The Program in Medical Education continues to require masks in the classroom spaces of the Tosteson Medical Education Center (TMEC), including in the learning studios, amphitheater, and tutorial rooms. This is due to the proximity of students in these settings, the length of time that students are interacting in close proximity to one another, and the fact that medical and dental students are interacting with patients both in clinical sessions in TMEC and in our affiliated hospitals and clinical sites, where masks are also required.
- Using Good Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before eating and after using the bathroom to prevent both respiratory and gastrointestinal illness.
Verifying Vaccination and Boosters: The University is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all Harvard community members and COVID-19 boosters for all students. Boosters are strongly encouraged for all faculty, staff, and researchers. See below or click here for additional information on vaccines and boosters.
Monitoring Mpox (formerly Monkeypox): Click here for additional information from HUHS and read more about the illness on the CDC’s Mpox webpage and Mass General Brigham’s Mpox FAQs. Students and other HUHS patients seeking vaccine referral or evaluation for suspected Mpox infection or exposure should contact HUHS at 617-495-5711 for phone assessment and instructions.
Updated Jan. 5, 2023
Testing & Exposure
Harvard no longer requires surveillance testing for COVID-19, however all individuals with an on-campus presence are encouraged to test before/after travel and when there is increased risk or suspicion about COVID-19 infection. Please note that students who live on campus in Vanderbilt Hall are required to take a rapid antigen test, which is available in Vanderbilt Hall, upon arrival/move-in.
Rapid antigen at-home test kits are readily available at your local pharmacies and through your insurance and provide results in minutes. All Harvard community members are encouraged to obtain antigen test kits and have them accessible in the event that you might need to test. Click here and scroll down for more information about rapid antigen testing.
Members of the HMS Quad community who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or believe they were exposed are encouraged to confirm their COVID status using a rapid antigen test. Follow guidance from HUHS on testing, exposure, and isolation.
PCR testing through Color is no longer available through Harvard, as of Sept. 16, 2022. Individuals will not be able to activate PCR test kits, and will receive an error message noting they are “ineligible” for testing at this time. To find PCR testing options in your vicinity, visit the Massachusetts Find a COVID-19 Test website.
Vaccination and Booster Requirements
Vaccines and boosters are the best defense against severe illness from COVID-19. Staying up-to-date with current COVID-19 vaccinations helps protect our community from severe illness and hospitalizations, and enables in-person learning, research, and other activities that are critical to our teaching and learning mission.
Harvard requires being up-to-date on COVID vaccination for all students who will be on campus. As we work to continue the high levels of vaccination needed to protect our community, Harvard highly recommends being up-to-date per the CDC definition for all Harvard community members, including faculty, staff, and researchers, who will have any on-campus presence. New employees to Harvard will be required to attest to having received their primary series upon hire. As of Dec. 22, 2022, current employees are no longer required to submit COVID-19 documentation to HUHS for compliance purposes.
HUHS is no longer offering large vaccine clinics as of Dec. 8, 2022. Community members looking to receive an updated/bivalent COVID-19 booster or the flu shot should contact their primary care provider’s office or schedule an appointment with a local retail pharmacy. Information on both vaccines is available on the CDC website.
Click here for more information about Harvard's COVID-19 vaccine requirement, including details on immunization compliance, submitting your COVID-19 vaccine information, and related FAQs.
Although health conditions have improved in many locations around the world, travel still poses risks, and you should take appropriate precautions and follow all public health requirements at your destination. Even for those who are well-traveled, there are risks that should still be considered. If you’re planning Harvard-related travel, do your research to determine your requirements, have contingency plans, and be prepared for the possibility of disruptions. Everyone's risk tolerance varies. Review the University’s COVID-19 travel updates and advice for considerations, sensible precautions, and resources to help you develop a safe travel plan.
Traveling internationally? All Harvard students, faculty, staff, and researchers are required to register their Harvard-related international travel with International SOS. You should also register with the U.S. State Department (U.S. citizens) or with your country’s embassy. If conditions deteriorate in your destination, registering with your embassy may expedite access to support.
HMS Flexwork Initiative
The HMS community has successfully adapted to and identified a continued desire for flexibility in where and how we work. Visit the HMS Flexwork Initiative webpage for more information, including why HMS is committed to flexwork, how HMS defines flexwork, resources for staff and for managers/leaders, and answers to frequently asked questions.