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Harvard Expects Up to 50 Returning Students Will Test Positive for COVID-19

The Harvard Square Clinic of Harvard University Health Services is located inside the Smith Campus Center on Mt. Auburn St.
The Harvard Square Clinic of Harvard University Health Services is located inside the Smith Campus Center on Mt. Auburn St. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Camille G. Caldera and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 said he anticipates that “as many as 50 students” will test positive for the coronavirus “soon after arrival on campus.”

Garber said the estimate is based on the number of students coming to campus — around 25 percent of undergraduates — and the “overall prevalence of the coronavirus nationwide.”

“Most would likely have minimal or no symptoms,” he said in an interview with the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication. “We have put the systems in place to prepare for this possibility and many other contingencies.”

The interview with Garber and Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen comes amid a nationwide reconsideration of university reopening plans.

Several schools within the Ivy League — including Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University — have reversed their fall reopening plans. The University of North Carolina switched to an all-remote learning plan one week after the school reopened to a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, while the University of Notre Dame suspended in-person classes after the school reported hundreds of new cases.

Unlike other institutions across the county, Garber said Harvard has “sharply limited” the number of students returning to campus.

“Across the country, colleges and universities developed a wide variety of plans for the fall,” he said. “Some of the institutions with outbreaks brought a much larger percentage of students to campus — two-thirds of their student body or even more — than will Harvard.”

On top of state travel regulations, Nguyen said that Harvard-specific safety measures will “engage” students as soon as they arrive.

“Our hope is that we are able to identify people who have COVID-19 quickly, before they are highly infectious and before they have exposed many other people,” he said. “After identification, we will be able ensure that these students are supported, and that others in the broader community are not subsequently exposed.”

Nguyen added the University has separate buildings capable of isolating hundreds of undergraduates who test positive at a time. He said students on campus who test positive will have single rooms with a private bathroom. HUHS and College personnel will monitor them during isolation.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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