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Harvard to Introduce Coronavirus Testing Pilot to Off-Campus Students

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Harvard will expand its coronavirus testing program to nearly 500 undergraduates living in areas adjacent to campus, according to a Monday email penned by Harvard University Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen.

“While the pilot is voluntary, the University is strongly encouraging you to participate,” Nguyen wrote in the email to off-campus undergraduates. “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.”

Under the current regimen, the University provides coronavirus tests to undergraduate students living on campus, who are required to take a coronavirus test every two to three days. The testing expansion would allow for 484 enrolled undergraduates living in the greater Cambridge area to take part in weekly COVID-19 screening tests until Nov. 22.

The University expanded the testing pilot as a precautionary measure as more off-campus and on-campus students begin to interact, according to Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain.

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Earlier this month, reports of large groups of students congregating — often maskless — by the Charles River drew stern criticism from Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair. In an email to on-campus students, O’Dair urged undergraduates to remain “vigilant” and to gather in small groups “consistent with public health guidelines.” Last week, HUHS emailed several undergraduates living off-campus asking them to report for testing and noting that the University was monitoring “recent cases among student athletes.”

Nguyen wrote that eligible off-campus students will have until Wednesday, Sept. 30 to indicate whether they plan to participate in the pilot screening program, after which they must complete a COVID-19 safety awareness training required by the state of Massachusetts and create an account with Color, a health testing company, to receive testing kits, alerts, and test results.

Students opting into the program will receive eight self-administered COVID-19 testing kits by mail. They can then drop off their samples at the HUHS clinic each week.

Testing serves as just one tenet of the College’s larger plan to curb the spread of coronavirus on campus. Undergraduates living in residence are also expected to comply with the “community compact” — a list of guidelines for living on campus.

Students found in defiance of the community compact guidelines report to the Community Council — an assembly of select students, faculty, and residential staff — which reviews violations of the College’s social distancing rules and doles out warnings to non-compliant students.

Though off-campus students are not subjected to community compact guidelines, Nguyen encouraged them to take advantage of the College’s COVID-19 testing resources to help maintain the health of Harvard affiliates.

“The pilot builds on the robust screening protocols we put in place for on-campus students and personnel in conjunction with the start of the fall semester,” Nguyen wrote. “With your participation in this pilot, you will help us in our ongoing work to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, the health and wellbeing of our Harvard community.”

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at alex.koller@thecrimson.com.

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