Dec. 18 (UPI) — Harvard University announced Saturday it has moved most of its classes and work online for the first three weeks in January in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
University officials said the move came as a response to quickly escalating levels of infections both locally and nationally as well as concerns over the Omicron variant of the virus.
Harvard said in a message to students and faculty its decision was “reinforced by the guidance of public health experts who have advised the university throughout the pandemic,” adding, “Please know that we do not take this step lightly.”
The U.S. has seen a rise in cases since late November, according to The New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker. As of Dec. 17, the daily case average was nearly 126,000, up from about 86,500 at the beginning of the month.
Earlier this week, New York City saw its COVID-19 positivity rate double over three days as the Omicron variant spread.
Only students who have been given prior approval should expect to return during this period, Harvard said. Approval will be “based on compelling individual circumstances or immediate need” to be on campus.
The university has 23,731 students in addition to 18,238 faculty and staff.
Some programs that require an in-person presence will continue, such as laboratories or patient-centered clinical requirements, while some library services will be available. Faculty and staff will work remotely, if possible.
The university said it would “return to more robust on-campus activities” later in January if conditions allowed.