Harvard University returns to remote learning amid COVID spike

Harvard University students will not be returning to campus at the start of the new year due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled in part by the omicron variant.

The Massachusetts Ivy League school in a memo to students and staff on Saturday announced it would shift to remote learning for the first three weeks of January.

“Please know that we do not take this step lightly,” university president Lawrence Bacow wrote.

“Public health experts anticipate the increase in COVID-19 cases to continue, driven by the Omicron variant, which we have now confirmed is already present in our campus community.”

Harvard University will move to remote learning for the first three weeks in January.
Harvard University will move to remote learning for the first three weeks in January. (Shutterstock)

Only those who have already been approved to stay on campus in addition to students with “compelling individual circumstances” will be allowed to stay in university housing during the first three weeks of classes, according to the statement.

The move comes days after the university said it would require students and staff to get a COVID-19 booster before returning for the spring semester. It also follows a rise in COVID-19 numbers across Massachusetts, where they have reported 6,345 new cases, including 45 news deaths as of Friday. Meanwhile, omicron is expected to become the dominant variant across the country in the coming weeks.

Bacow noted the timeframe is intended to coincide when cases are expected to “potentially” peak.

“The increase in COVID-19 cases and the presence of the Omicron variant demand our attention,” the message reads.

“It is critical that we all take steps to reduce risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 by getting a vaccine booster, along with masking, minimizing contact, distancing and testing.”

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