Harvard University will move to remote learning when classes resume in January, school officials said in a letter to the campus community Saturday.
The Cambridge college said the decision was prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and the growing presence of the omicron variant. Officials said they've already confirmed that the highly transmissible variant is present in the campus community.
"The first three weeks of January we will take steps to reduce density on campus by moving much of our learning and work remotely," the university said in a statement Saturday. "Please know that we do not take this step lightly. It is 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."
Only students who are authorized should return to campus for the first three weeks of the new year, officials said. Faculty, staff and researchers should also work remotely if possible.
Harvard strongly encouraged the university community to take the necessary precautions — such as getting a vaccine, a booster shot, social distancing, and wearing a mask — to reduce the risk of infection and to slow the spread of the virus.
Some library facilities will be available during the remote period and essential in-person laboratory and patient-centered clinical work will continue, the school said.
The three-week time period coincides with Harvard's intersession. The university is currently set to begin most of its spring semester classes on Jan. 24, after the three-week remote learning mandate.
“We are planning a return to more robust on-campus activities later in January, public health conditions permitting," Harvard said in a statement on its website. “We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on these plans as soon as we are able.”