GSAS held a fall term town hall on August 30, 2021, which can be viewed below. Most answers to questions about fall 2021 and COVID-19 planning can be found on GSAS’s main coronavirus page and in the Fall 2021 Checklist, including test pick-up and drop-off locations. Below are select questions from the town hall, edited for clarity.

Testing Cadence

I plan to be away for all or part of the fall 2021 term. How can I meet the testing requirement?

Students accessing campus need to test every 7 days if vaccinated and every 3 days if unvaccinated. If you plan to be away from campus for all or part of the fall term, please complete this brief survey so that this requirement can be reviewed. If you have questions related to the testing requirement, please email

What if we only go on campus every other week? Should we submit a test on the “off” week?

Unless your on-campus presence has been changed, all students must adhere to their assigned testing cadence, even if you are not on campus that week. If you plan to be away from campus for all or part of the fall term, please complete this brief survey so that this requirement can be reviewed.

What happens if we are unable to test on the exact day of our testing cadence? Will we be labeled non-compliant and if so, what will happen?

If you will be away from campus and will not be able to meet your testing requirement, please complete this brief survey in advance of your time away from campus. GSAS will review survey responses before non-compliance messages are sent and will not send you a message if you have indicated in advance that you will be away from campus and will miss a test.

I am cross registered at another School and am testing there. Do I need to test again at Harvard?

Harvard students, staff, and faculty are required to undergo regularly recurring COVID PCR testing. If your home school also requires you to undergo COVID PCR testing recurring at least once per week, then you do not need to also undergo testing at Harvard. Please email with your name and HUID to have your testing requirement evaluated.

As an enrolled student, you agree to abide by Harvard’s masking and distancing protocols, to follow your institution’s assigned testing cadence, and to use Crimson Clear to report symptoms or exposure and to report a positive COVID-19 test. If you test positive, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, or are out of compliance with your home institution’s COVID-19 protocols, you may not come to the Harvard campus.

As a cross-registered student, you authorize Harvard University and your home institution to share your name, contact information, and COVID-19 test results with each other for the purposes of contact tracing and to help protect the health and safety of the Harvard and surrounding communities.

If your circumstances change and you need to test at Harvard, follow the instructions on the Fall 2021 Checklist.

What if I am being tested by the Broad Institute?

Please complete this brief survey so that your testing requirement can be reviewed. 


Color Account

Color says my email is not eligible for testing. What do I do? 

Crimson Clear lists your “provisioning email,” which you should use to set up your Color account. If that does not work, try resetting your password. If you try both options and still have issues, email with your name and HUID.

When I log in to my Color account, it says “awaiting sample.” Does that mean my test kit wasn’t picked up and I need to re-test? 

Test kits are picked up at different times across campus, which can be viewed on Harvard’s test kit drop-off map. If you submitted your test after the pick-up time, your sample will be collected the next day. Test results will be returned as quickly as possible; please note that a recent increase in testing volume may lead to delays.


Testing Positive

If I wake up with cold symptoms, after contacting HUHS, what happens? How will this impact my classes?

Report any COVID-19 symptoms through Crimson Clear. HUHS will follow up with you. The Keep Harvard Healthy website provides information on understanding your test results, which includes next steps if you test positive.

Be sure to inform your instructor that you may miss class. Your instructor will work with you to maintain academic continuity.

Is it safe for people to stay in their apartment with a person who tests positive?

Massachusetts provides additional guidance for those living with someone who has tested positive. Be sure to have COVID Contingency Conversations with your roommates so that you agree on a plan of action in the event one of you tests positive. If you share a residence, please eat independently (in a different location or at a different time), and plan to access shared bathrooms at different times to lessen contact.

How long are COVID-19 positive individuals supposed to quarantine?

The Keep Harvard Healthy website outlines protocols for quarantine and isolation. Massachusetts also provides additional guidance that may be useful.


Contact Tracing 

Will Harvard perform contract tracing? If someone in my class tests positive, how and when will I be notified? 

Keep Harvard Healthy has detailed information about contact tracing.



Are there designated areas indoors where I can remove my mask to eat lunch?

All students, faculty, staff must wear masks inside Harvard’s buildings, and unvaccinated individuals must wear masks on campus, even outside. You can read more about Harvard’s masking policy on page 5 of the Guidance for On-Campus Activity.


Classes: Taking

If a student tests positive, what does that mean for class attendance? Will they be able to participate remotely?

Anyone who tests positive must follow HUHS instructions on isolation and let their instructor know they will miss class. The instructor will work with the student, which will include discussion of options for participation and support from classmates or a TF. Faculty and teaching fellows have also been provided guidance on helping students maintain academic continuity.

If someone tests positive after attending class and the whole class needs to quarantine after contact exposure, will the class be virtual during that quarantine time?

As long as all students follow Harvard’s masking mandate, it is unlikely that the whole class would need to quarantine. Instructional staff will work with the student or students on accommodations during quarantine.

What happens if someone shows up to class with COVID-19 symptoms? Can the professor tell them to leave?

Instructional staff have been given guidance on handling situations where a student is not adhering to health and safety protocols.

What happens if someone wears a mask under their nose in class? 

The Harvard community is expected to follow health and safety protocols, including wearing masks appropriately. If you are concerned about a situation, you should be empowered to speak up. If you feel uncomfortable speaking to the person directly, you can always share your concern with the instructional staff, who have been given guidance on handling situations where a student is not adhering to health and safety protocols. Bear in mind that some individuals may receive an accommodation based on their situation, and that information is private.

Can Harvard release policies to reassure students that their academic success in classes will not be impacted by testing positive or being exposed to COVID-19? 

The University’s approach to the pandemic has been to help keep infection from spreading on campus. As would always be the case if a student were to fall ill or become injured, University officials will help as appropriate to assess the situation and to work with the student and the instructor to maintain academic continuity.

Will Harvard provide wipes to clean desks/tables in between classes?

Cleaning supplies are available in every classroom if students wish to use them.

Why is the FAS mandating in-person learning inside instead of hybrid or online?

The FAS has announced that all fall instruction will take place in person. The steps Harvard has taken throughout the pandemic have helped keep infections from spreading on campus. The University continues to monitor the public health situation and will continue to update protocols, with the health and safety of the community being the top priority.

Will instructors be told if a student has a mask exemption? 

Mask exemptions are managed by the Accessible Education Office, who works with students and faculty.

How can I order clear masks if I need to read lips of my instructor or my students? 

If you need access to clear masks as an accommodation, please contact the Accessible Education Office. AEO will also notify your instructors that they are expected to wear the masks to facilitate access.


Classes: Teaching

Given the small size of some classrooms, and the possibility that several students in a section may be required to isolate at a given time, will TFs be able to hold sections remotely or in a hybrid form? What support will be given to TFs to help accommodate students who need to miss class?

The FAS maintains a COVID information section of the Resources for Faculty and Researchers page that includes a helpful FAQ for instructional staff.

Current Harvard guidance says that unvaccinated people need to social distance indoors. How does that work in classrooms with unvaccinated individuals?

The FAS maintains a COVID information section of the Resources for Faculty and Researchers page that includes classroom guidance for instructional staff.

If a student has a mask exemption accommodation, what additional provisions has Harvard put in place to safeguard those sharing an indoor space with them?

Everyone accessing campus should follow masking (unless an accommodation has been approved) and distancing protocols to maintain the health and safety of the Harvard community. Harvard has also provided additional filtration in indoor spaces and provides cleaning supplies in every classroom if students wish to use them.



Can you address how student clubs should be guiding a return to in-person events? There hasn't been a set of guidelines issued for us yet and we host hundreds of events on campus each year.

The GSAS Student Center recommends that student leaders hold events virtually in September. Groups wanting to hold in-person meetings in September are asked to follow Cambridge or Boston and Harvard University policies, including Guidance for On-Campus Activity, when holding events and programs.

The GSAS Student Center at Lehman Hall will open for student group reservations starting October 1.