Harvard Business School (HBS) in Boston, Massachusetts has just experienced a large coronavirus outbreak despite more than 90 percent of students and staff being fully vaccinated.
The school, which has a population of more than 1700 students, had a significant Covid-19 outbreak after cases started rising in September. This news comes as 95 percent of students and 96 percent of staff at the school being reported as fully vaccinated, yet this did not appear to stop Covid from making its way through those on campus.
Two-thirds of all cases recorded in September came from students. A statement from the HBS said that Covid-19 cases among MBA students surged by 20 per cent in just three days.
Dean Srikant Datar of HBS said: “Our positivity rate is 12 times that of the rest of Harvard. These distressing figures are so high that they have attracted the scrutiny of local public health officials.”
To avoid further scrutiny from the public and to preserve Harvard’s image, Datar and several of the university’s administrators have announced that teaching will be conducted online for almost all students until the end of October. This change affects almost all first-year and some second-year courses.
This is one of the first instances of a major university halting in-person teaching due to Covid-19 outbreaks.
The university made its decision after receiving advice from public health officials employed by the city and state.
HBS also announced that it will be increasing the number of Covid tests it forces upon students to three per week. Previously, the university’s requirement was for fully vaccinated students to get tested once per week and unvaccinated students to get tested twice per week.
Mark Cautela, spokesman and head of communication for HBS, said in a statement that Harvard is also requesting students to avoid participating in social gatherings with anybody outside of their households and instead socialise with friends online.
Cautela also said that students should avoid gathering indoors without masks or travelling in large groups.
“Contact tracers who have worked with positive cases highlight that transmission is not occurring in classrooms or other academic settings on campus,” said Cautela.
Cautela claimed that the transmission is currently occurring only among members of the school whenever they are unmasked.
Several MBA students currently enrolled at HBS said that some of the coronavirus cases among the student body were due to people going to off-campus parties. Some of the parties mentioned include one “Great Gatsby” themed house party attended by several hundred people.
Another possible point of infection highlighted was one large group trip to Puerto Rice that involved dozens of first-year MBA students.
Harvard has disavowed being involved in the organisation or execution of any of the events.
If it is true that the infections were contracted outside of the classroom, then what is the point of ending in-person teaching?
According to Harvard, graduate students represent the majority of active Covid-19 cases on campus. The university administered 41,864 Covid tests between September 20th to the 25th. The tests returned 74 positive results. Of those 74, 60 came from graduate students.
As of press time, the university has 28 students in quarantine who tested positive for Covid-19. A further 87 students are in forced isolation after significant exposure to a Covid-19 positive person.
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