Harvard University

Harvard Going Remote for First Half of January Amid Rise in COVID Cases

The decision was "prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant," administrators said Saturday

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Harvard University is going remote for the first three weeks of January, the prestigious school said Saturday.

The decision was made in light of the rising COVID-19 cases in the Cambridge area and nationally, administrators said in a statement released to the Harvard community.

"Please know that we do not take this step lightly. It is prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. It is reinforced by the guidance of public health experts who have advised the University throughout the pandemic," the statement said.

There are some exceptions. Students who receive special authorization can plan to return to campus during the three-week period, the statement said. Some programs that have essential lab and research work will continue in person, but the university requested that faculty, staff and researchers who can work remotely during the three-week remote session.

Dr. Paul Sax, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, joined NBC10 Boston Wednesday to talk concerns about the omicron COVID variant.

Harvard will announce whether activities will be able to return on campus as soon as possible, the officials said: "We are planning a return to more robust on-campus activities later in January, public health conditions permitting. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on these plans as soon as we are able."

The statement encouraged students to get booster shots -- vaccines are required for members of the Harvard community -- and outlined resources and guidelines for students and employees for operating safely while remote or on campus.

Massachusetts on Friday reported its highest one-day total of COVID cases since January, a surge experts believe has been fueled by the delta variant. At least four cases of the omicron variant have been detected in the Bay State, as well as most states across the country.

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