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Athletes to Submit Additional Covid Tests Under Policy Allowing Maskless Competition

Students deposit their Covid-19 tests at drop-off sites located in their dormitories.
Students deposit their Covid-19 tests at drop-off sites located in their dormitories. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Benjamin L. Fu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard will require its student athletes to undergo additional Covid-19 testing as the College resumes athletics competition this fall.

Vaccinated members of Harvard’s 42 varsity teams will be required to test twice per week, the athletic department informed student athletes last week, per guidance issued by Harvard University Health Services. Harvard is requiring non-athletes to submit a Covid test once per week.

Harvard Athletics Director Erin McDermott explained in an emailed statement Monday that the department implemented the policy so that athletes can safely train and compete maskless this semester — in both indoor and outdoor sports. University guidelines otherwise require all affiliates to wear a mask indoors.

Harvard’s varsity teams have not competed since March 2020, when the Ivy League canceled competition at the onset of the pandemic.

“Athletics consulted with HUHS and EH&S [Environmental, Health & Safety] on plans for student-athletes to train and compete this fall. Part of that plan included seeking an exception for student-athletes in wearing masks inside while training and competing,” McDermott wrote. “The requirement in granting an exception is for the testing cadence to increase to twice per week.”

Brant D. Berkstresser, associate athletics director for student-athlete health and performance, wrote in an email announcing the policy to student athletes last week that the additional testing is “for the overall health and safety of yourselves and the Harvard Community.”

Athletics will require unvaccinated student athletes to submit a Covid-19 test three times per week, Berkstresser noted in his email.

Liam J.C. Rotzoll ’23-’24, a member of the men’s squash team, said he is willing to undergo a nasal swab one additional time per week if it enables him and his teammates to compete for Harvard.

“Whatever needs to be done for the season to go through smoothly should be done,” Rotzoll said.

Rotzoll said he has become used to wearing a mask while playing due to mask mandates near his home, but that it was a nuisance.

“That’s a great resolution for all athletes,” Rotzoll said of Harvard’s decision.

One of his teammates, Conner H. Stoltz ’24-’25, also said he is happy Harvard will exclude athletes like himself from the indoor-mask mandate.

“I’m always sweating a lot so when I’m halfway through the game, it’s just a mask sticking to my face, which makes it even harder to breathe. So I definitely think it makes a difference,” he said. “I really hope they don’t change that.”

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Fu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @benfu_2.

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