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Harvard Joins Stanford, Others In Moving January Classes Online

Harvard University announced Saturday (December 18) that classes will be conducted online for the first three weeks of January

Harvard University is the latest elite school to announce that it will move all classes online in the first weeks of January, in response to a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases. The move also affects Harvard Business School.

The university announced Saturday (December 18) that it will shift to remote learning for the first three weeks in January, a move “prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.” The announcement came in a letter to the university signed by President Lawrence S. Bacow and others in Harvard leadership.

According to its Covid-19 dashboard as of Saturday afternoon, in the last seven days Harvard has administered more than 41,000 tests and reported 344 new positive cases, for an 0.83% positivity rate. The day before, December 17, Harvard reported 16 positive cases among graduate students, eight among undergraduates, and 16 among faculty and staff. The biggest recent day for new cases was December 14, when Harvard had 34 cases among grad students, 20 among undergrads, and 18 among faculty and staff.


Harvard Business School had not suspended in-person exams as of December 18. The university’s move to post-holiday online instruction follows similar moves at Stanford University, which has moved to remote classes for the first two weeks of January, and others. Earlier in the week, Cornell University closed its main campus in Ithaca, New York because of a spike in cases.

At Yale University, plans for post-holiday in-person instruction are still intact; however, a Yale School of Management spokesperson tells Poets&Quants that that may change because “with holiday travel, family gatherings ahead, and a highly transmissible variant in the air … things might look different for us very soon.” The university saw the “largest-ever single-day Covid spike” on Wednesday (December 15).

Meanwhile up north, one of Canada’s premier universities, the University of Toronto, announced December 16 that it will not hold in-person exams this winter and will delay most in-person learning until Jan. 31 “to help curb the spread of COVID-19 amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.”


Like Stanford and Dartmouth College, Harvard also announced that students and “affiliates” will be required to get a booster vaccination shot in the spring. In their letter to the university, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, Provost Alan M. Garber, Executive Vice President Katie Lapp, and Executive Director of Harvard University Health Services Giang T. Nguyen urged everyone to get vaccinated and/or boosted, as well as continue to adhere to social distancing protocols.

“The increase in Covid-19 cases and the presence of the Omicron variant demand our attention,” they wrote. “It is critical that we all take steps to reduce risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 by getting a vaccine booster, along with masking, minimizing contact, distancing, and testing.

“Your commitment to keep Harvard healthy this past semester has been remarkable. Together we can continue to maintain the health and safety of our community, while pursuing the research and teaching mission of the University. We wish you a safe and restful winter recess and holiday season.”

Harvard students will have until January 18 to be fully vaccinated or “begin to face discipline for non-compliance,” according to school policy.