John Harvard Statue with mask on.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

An update of changes on campus as pandemic spreads

8 min read

Libraries, rec centers, museums closing; shifts for housing, financial aid

As national and state guidelines about how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic change almost daily, Harvard has responded in kind, implementing a series of adjustments across the University and issuing recommendations aimed at stemming the spread of the virus and keeping members of the Harvard community safe through social distancing.

Libraries closed

Most Harvard library spaces are now closed and all borrowing and circulation of print materials has been suspended until further notice, officials announced Monday.

“We pride ourselves on putting users first and always working to best serve our community. In this case, we are best able to serve our community by reducing in-person interactions as much as possible,” wrote Martha Whitehead, vice president for the Harvard Library and University librarian. “At the same time, we know how important our spaces and print materials are to research, teaching, and learning at Harvard, and we look forward to resuming access as soon as possible.”

The message stated that all Harvard Library locations are closed to non-Harvard affiliates and that all Faculty of Arts and Sciences library locations, as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Countway libraries are closed to Harvard affiliates. Users of the Harvard Business School’s library should check the School’s website for updated information. Virtual services, including online reference and consultations, access to digital collections, and information on remote teaching and learning, are still available, and updates will be posted to the library’s website.

Harvard Library is also working to ensure the growing body of research on coronavirus is free and accessible to as many people as possible. The Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication is fast-tracking the deposit of COVID-19 research into DASH, the open-access repository of research by members of the Harvard community.

Meals become carry-out; fewer Smith Center hours

While most students have left campus and will transition to online learning, those who have been approved to remain will receive carry-out meals from the dining halls; students will no longer be allowed to congregate in the dining halls at any time. In an effort to stop people from gathering in big numbers, campus services workers have also removed tables and chairs from public spaces around the University, and operating hours at the Smith Campus Center have been reduced.

The campus changes are in keeping with recommendations from Massachusetts Gov. Charles D. Baker and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Sunday, Baker ordered all public and private schools in the state to close for three weeks, restricted restaurants to takeout and delivery only, and went the CDC 50 percent better by reducing Massachusetts’ recommended limit on public gatherings from 50 to 25. On Monday, President Trump urged people to limit gatherings to a maximum of 10.

Recreation centers shut

Starting March 17, all of Harvard’s recreation facilities closed until further notice, including the Malkin Athletic Center, Hemenway Gymnasium, Murr Center (fitness room, squash and tennis courts), Blodgett Pool, QRAC, Weld Boathouse, Sailing Center, and Beren Tennis Center.

For those wishing to stay in shape or relieve a little stress in the meantime, the Harvard Recreation Team is offering free access to its fitness partner Wellbeats’ online platform through April 30. To sign up, visit the Wellbeats online portal or download the app, click on register with a code, and enter b27fdf55.

Updated financial aid requirements

Harvard administrators have updated financial aid requirements for students engaged in term-time work that contributes to their College costs. Spring term-time work expectations will be reduced by half and removed from a student’s financial aid package, the College announced. For example, a spring semester term-time work expectation of $1,750 will be reduced to $875 and the corresponding amount replaced with additional financial aid, with the increase in scholarship aid appearing on the term bill. The spring term-time work adjustments will be made as soon as possible, and students will be updated with more information in the near future. For more information, students can email the Griffin Financial Aid Office at

University housing guidance amended

Recommendations and guidance for those living in Harvard University Housing (HUH) has also been updated and amended. Harvard University Housing will end liability for each resident choosing to vacate prior to June 30, 2020, on his or her chosen vacate date. Residents are asked to login by March 31 to choose whether to end or renew their leases. In keeping with state and national guidelines, Graduate Commons programming — a series of events and activities that connects Harvard graduate students, faculty, postdocs, staff, and their families living in Harvard University Housing properties — will transition to a virtual platform. Harvard Housing has also closed a number of building common rooms. A complete list of changes and updates can be found on the HUH FAQ page.

Warning sent to study-abroad students

As borders continue to close, Harvard Global Support Services (GSS) recently sent a letter to all students studying overseas urging them to decide soon whether to remain abroad or return home. “Governments are swiftly enacting border and travel restrictions without prior notice in the hopes of slowing the pandemic’s progression,” the letter read. “If you’re in a location where you can leave, now is the time to decide whether you stay or return home.” Those looking for more information can review the updated GSS travel advice.

Radcliffe program ends early

Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin announced that the Fellowship Program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, which typically runs through the academic year, is being brought to an early close. Byerly Hall, home to the fellows’ offices, will be closed until further notice beginning on March 26, and all fellowship talks will be canceled. Those living at 83 Brattle can stay through the end of their lease or terminate it early without penalty. All will continue to receive stipends through May 31, and those remaining in the Boston-Cambridge area will also be eligible for child-care expenses and health insurance through that period.

Changes to HUHS appointments

To reduce the number of patients in its waiting rooms, Executive Director of Harvard University Health Services Giang T. Nguyen said Tuesday that HUHS would temporarily increase the number of patient appointments conducted by telephone, including Counseling and Mental Health Services and Behavioral Health appointments. Urgent Care and Internal Medicine will be open for urgent or essential visits that require in-person exams, as will Mount Auburn’s obstetrics/gynecology practice at Smith Campus Center, which will continue to see obstetrics patients and gynecology emergencies as needed. Patients with upcoming appointments will be contacted by their clinical department, and Nguyen urged patients to continue to monitor the HUHS website for updates.

Update on affiliates tested for virus

A Monday message from Nguyen contained updates on members of the Harvard community being tested for the novel coronavirus. On March 13, Harvard President Larry Bacow sent out an email stating that two people had been tested for COVID-19, with one test presumptive positive and the other result still pending. Bacow’s message also stated that a third person who had been in close contact with the first was also being tested. By Monday, Nguyen reported that the second person Bacow mentioned had tested negative, while the third person had a presumptive positive test and was being treated off campus.

Nguyen’s note also included links to HUHS guidance on whether to self-isolate/quarantine, and information about future cases in the Harvard community. “Efforts are underway to expand access to tests, making it less feasible to notify the community of all tests collected,” wrote Nguyen. “Going forward, we will provide updates on the number of positive cases in our community via the Harvard Coronavirus webpage, rather than through community-wide email. You can also find other guidance and information about COVID-19 on this website.”

Changes at museums, A.R.T.

On March 12, officials announced the University’s network of museums would close until further notice. The announcement was issued in a joint statement with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Institute of Contemporary Art, and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, local art institutions that all have temporarily closed their doors in keeping with the CDC’s social-distancing recommendations. The day before, Harvard’s American Repertory Theater announced it was canceling or postponing a series of upcoming events and updating its ticket exchange and return policies in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Central administration staff working remotely

Harvard Vice President Katie Lapp sent an email late last week informing the University community that all central administration staff who could do so would work remotely until further notice. On Friday, she approved a weeklong pilot program to test the practice.

“The situation we face with this public health emergency is changing rapidly,” Lapp wrote in her email, “requiring that decisions and policies be assessed and adapted each day.” Many Schools and units across Harvard have issued similar guidance regarding remote work. Those looking for further information about working from home or their School’s policy or recommendations regarding remote work can visit the University’s work remotely page.

Outings & Innings

While Harvard’s Outings & Innings box office has also closed, its Twitter page will continue to post material for members of the Harvard community, including information on online museum resources and other content, including virtual sessions with Silkroad artists, live feedings with Myrtle the sea turtle and other animals at the New England Aquarium, and videos of educators sharing fun facts about sharks and other marine life.