Harvard University

Harvard Stops Providing Contact Tracing, Isolation Housing for Students With COVID

As Harvard University students return from winter break, they've learned they will need to notify close contacts on their own if they test positive for COVID-19

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Harvard students will soon be returning back to campus and finding new COVID-19 policies in place.

The school announced last week that it will no longer provide contact tracing because of high volume, so students who test positive will have to notify close contacts on their own.

"I would be comfortable doing it on my own," said Harvard freshman Cristian Gaines. "I'd want to make sure we're transparent with each other. I think that's the most important thing at this time."

The school will also no longer provide isolation housing for students who test positive.

Students will have to self-isolate in most cases, but could petition for alternate housing.

"I sleep four feet away from my roommate, so if one of us tested positive, the other would be screwed," said freshman Evan Gleason. "Almost certainly end up with COVID."

Dr. Lara Jirmanus is a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and disagrees with the new policies.

"Harvard has made it very clear that its COVID policy is 'Let them get sick,'" said Jirmanus. "Completely ending isolation and contact tracing for the entire spring semester is irresponsible, and Harvard University knows better."

Jirmanus, who's also a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, worries about the virus spreading if students are isolating in their dorm rooms.

"They share bedrooms and bathrooms," said Jirmanus. "They're sleeping in the same room with other people. It's basically almost a guarantee that they're going to make their roommates sick."

On its website, Harvard says most infected people on campus are having minimal symptoms, and the school is requiring all students and staff to be boosted and encouraging strict masking protocols.

The school declined an interview about the new policies, but pointed to its online guidance for COVID-19 cases in its community.

"Being a roommate with someone who's sick, if that was me, I'd probably find a way to not be in that room for that period of time," said freshman Diego Sotelo.

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