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First Harvard Affiliate Tests 'Presumptive Positive' for Coronavirus

Massachusetts Hall is located in Harvard Yard.
Massachusetts Hall is located in Harvard Yard. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Fiona K. Brennan, Crimson Staff Writer

For the first time since the global coronavirus outbreak began, a Harvard affiliate has tested “presumptive positive” for the disease, University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced in a campus-wide email Friday evening.

The affiliate who tested presumptive positive is receiving medical care off campus. A "presumptive positive" case means the test is pending confirmation testing from the Centers for Disease Control.

The person was one of two University affiliates who received coronavirus tests. Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen first announced the pair of tests in an email Wednesday, adding that the individuals were receiving “appropriate care.”

Bacow added that a third Harvard affiliate who came into close contact with the person who tested presumptive positive is currently being tested, and that others who may have contacted the person will be tested “as needed.”

The University has put in place protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health agencies to test people with symptoms and communicate with others who have come into contact with them, according to Bacow.

“In line with those protocols, the Department of Public Health is taking the appropriate steps to communicate with members of the community who may have come into contact with the individual who tested presumptive positive. HUHS is supporting this effort,” he wrote.

In the email, Bacow also affirmed the decision the University made Tuesday to move all instruction online and urge students to vacate their dorms, noting that these practices will “help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

“The interventions I announced on Tuesday, which are now under way, will decrease the density of people on our campus to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” he wrote. “I know that many of you are concerned about the speed with which we are compelling you to act, and I understand that the changes we are asking you to make are very significant, but today’s confirmed case gives our efforts even greater urgency.”

Bacow wrote in the email that he believes in the “paramount” importance of keeping the individuals currently being tested anonymous. He closed the email by urging Harvard affiliates to be “kind and generous” as the outbreak continues.

“No one knows what we will face in the weeks ahead, but everyone knows enough to understand that COVID-19 will test our capacities to be kind and generous, and to see beyond ourselves and our own interests,” he wrote. “Our task now is to bring the best of who we are and what we do to a world that is more complex and more confused than any of us would like it to be.”

Another email, sent Friday on behalf of Cambridge mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and city manager Louis A. DePasquale, confimed that one Cambridge resident tested positive for the virus, and two presumptively positive. Like many around the Boston area, all three cases are connected to a conference led by the Kendall Square-based company Biogen.

The city will now implement a spate of new measures to contain the outbreak. From tomorrow until March 29, the city will close its public library. Until at least March 27, it will close public schools.

—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23.

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