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Harvard to Continue Covid-19 Testing Program for Off-Campus Undergrads

A student picks up a COVID-19 test in the Science Center tent during fall move-in last August.
A student picks up a COVID-19 test in the Science Center tent during fall move-in last August. By Aidan F. Ryan
By Alex M. Koller and Taylor C. Peterman, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard will provide Covid-19 testing to enrolled undergraduates living off-campus in the greater Cambridge area during the spring semester, Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen announced in a Wednesday email.

The initiative marks the renewal of a fall pilot program that expanded Harvard’s coronavirus testing resources to 484 off-campus students in areas near campus. The pilot was met with praise by some of its participants.

“This screening program is part of our continuing efforts to monitor and manage the COVID-19 virus within the Harvard community,” Nguyen wrote in his email sent to College students living off campus in the greater Cambridge area this spring. “The program builds on the successful undergraduate off campus fall pilot and the robust screening protocols we put in place for our on campus community.”

Nazeli I. Hagen ’21, who shares an apartment near Harvard Yard with three other students and participated in the fall pilot, said she was “excited and relieved” that off-campus testing would continue in the spring.

“I think it also is just peace of mind for people,” she said. “The more things I can do to take precautions, the better.”

While College students living in Harvard’s dorms this spring are required to self-administer Covid-19 tests three times a week, participation in the off-campus screening program is voluntary.

“While testing is voluntary, the University is strongly encouraging you to participate,” Nguyen wrote in his email to students living near campus. “Doing so provides a greater opportunity for you to assist in efforts to keep Harvard healthy and better ensure the health and wellbeing of every member of our community.”

Students who opt into the spring program will initially receive three testing kits by mail, according to Nguyen’s email. Participants will be sent subsequent kits throughout the term as they submit one test sample per week at the HUHS clinic. All tests will be free to participants.

Students will receive their test results “usually within 24 hours” from health testing company Color, per the email.

Racheal L. Lama ’23, who is living near Harvard with three other students, said she is thankful she can protect her roommates by getting tested weekly.

“I was just really glad to have this opportunity for and privilege of regular testing,” she said. “Even though I’m not leaving the house often, I’m just glad to be able to do my part in ensuring the safety of my roommates.”

Alexandra J. Fogel ’23, who is staying in a North Cambridge apartment with two blockmates, said she is participating in the program because she wants to be “as safe as possible” in ensuring she does not unwittingly spread the virus to others.

“I do have to go grocery shopping, et cetera,” she said. “Just the knowledge that I could unknowingly pass someone the virus upsets me, so testing reduces that risk.”

Students participating in the testing program must also complete a state-mandated Covid-19 safety awareness training. Lama said the online module was “super informative” and only took about 30 minutes to complete.

“It included a lot of information — transmission rates, different individuals’ susceptibility to the virus,” she said. “It was just important things I feel everyone should know in order to keep our community safe.”

Students have until Jan. 29 to confirm their participation in the testing program.

—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at alex.koller@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexmkoller.

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at taylor.peterman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.

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