Harvard to end contact tracing in spring semester, university health official says

Harvard University has said it will no longer conduct contact tracing and that students who test positive for COVID-19 will have to notify their close contacts themselves, a university official said. in a message to the Harvard community last week.

Giang Nguyen, executive director of health services at Harvard University, announced changes to the university’s COVID-19 policies as students prepare to return to campus for the spring semester.

“With near-universal vaccination in our Harvard community, the majority of those infected in our community have no symptoms or mild symptoms that quickly resolve,” Nguyen wrote in the post. “As such, we are confident in our ability to continue in-person learning plans in late January while applying new protocols that include community-wide reminders and a shortened period of on-site isolation followed by a strict masking.”

Harvard reported 366 new positive cases last week with a 2.5% positivity rate, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. Ninety-eight percent of students and 97 percent of employees at the university were vaccinated Thursday, according to the dashboard.

All students, faculty, staff and researchers must receive their reminders by Jan. 31, or 30 days after becoming eligible for a reminder, Nguyen wrote.

Harvard decided to end its contact tracing program “due to the high volume” of cases, Nguyen wrote. The university will notify students via email if they test positive for the virus and “provide guidance on notifying close contacts,” the message said.

Students who are infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms and no fever can end their isolation after five days but must wear a mask outside their home for a full 10 days, wrote Nguyen.

Students who are unvaccinated or who have been vaccinated but are late for vaccination are required to self-quarantine for five days if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, wrote Nguyen. Students who are fully vaccinated with a booster do not have to self-quarantine if they have been exposed to the virus, Nguyen’s message reads.

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