Follow-Up Information Related to COVID-19 Planning

March 10, 2020

Dear Harvard Chan Community,

As you will have seen from President Bacow and Dean Williams, we are now in rapid preparation for moving to remote instruction and curtailing in-person university business in important ways. We are following up with a bit more detailed information.

First, we have developed an internal planning group that is meeting regularly and is working to coordinate the School’s activities and communications, alongside those of the University. Members of this group come from the Dean’s Office, Education, IT, HR, Communications, and Faculty Affairs. The planning group is in close coordination with departments, program heads, and managers, and many of this group are also on daily calls with their respective university groups and counterparts.

Second, we know that many of you have specific questions, and we plan to provide more specific and detailed guidance in the next day to various members of our community, for example to instructors specific to instruction practices, to students responding to particular student-related questions, and to managers and staff regarding HR questions.

In general, if you have any questions we ask that you first take a look at the University’s official COVID-19 website, which is being updated regularly.

We ask that you bring your specific questions and concerns to your department administrator, program head, or manager. If you have questions that can’t be answered from the university guidance or at the local level, please send emails as below:

We very much encourage you to voice your questions and concerns – the more issues that are raised and addressed, the better prepared we can be. We will be as responsive as possible and will post updated responses to questions on our Harvard Chan coronavirus website regularly. We also very much appreciate your flexibility and tolerance as there will no doubt be bumps as we navigate this evolving situation.

In the meantime, here are a few of the questions and responses that we’ve already received:

  • I have concerns about attending classes and meetings, holding classes and meetings, or coming to work THIS WEEK. Some individuals may be at a higher risk for severe illness because of underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. Others may have concerns based on their past experiences that are not immediately health related. We ask that each individual make the best decision for themselves and their families and be in touch with their managers, departments, instructors, or the list of individuals above to make inquiries about policies and protocols.
    • Default to excused absences for students and staff should consult official policies. We expect all student health-related and reasonable absences to be excused. We ask all individuals who are not going to attend class, lab, work, or meetings, to let their instructor, manager, department, or other relevant individual know that they will not be attending. We ask instructors and managers to develop accommodations and be especially flexible during this time.
    • Tests, defenses, and other deadline related convenings THIS WEEK. It may not be possible to convert tests or other assignments to a remote version in the next few days although we ask instructors to the extent possible to try to do so for those students who need accommodations. Students who are not comfortable taking exams or presentations this week in person may, however, have to take a make-up exam or a make-up assignment, which may delay grading and grade submission. Alternatively, instructors may want to postpone their tests as they work to reformat them to be take-home exams or similar.
  • What resources are available to help me move instruction, research, and work activities online? Harvard Chan IT is working with HUIT and the Office of Education to ensure that all classes will have options for online instruction. Options may include synchronous and asynchronous activities including pre-recording lectures, conferencing through Zoom, instruction through Canvas, etc. We are also expecting to provide ongoing guidance about meetings, work, and research that can be done remotely.
    • Open office hours. Meet with colleagues from IT and Education.
      • Wednesday, 3/11, 12:00-2:00:  Kresge G1
      • Thursday, 3/12, 12:00-2:00:  FXB G12
      • Friday, 3/13, 12:00-2:00:  Kresge G1
    • Individual IT appointments. If you can’t make these office hours, please send an email to Kate Targett,
    • Consult with your departments or unit. You may also want to reach out to your department administrator or unit head for guidance about resources specific to your context.
  • What do I do if I think I may have COVID-19 or have concerns about my own health? As previously communicated, if you have any signs of illness, including symptoms of COVID-19 but not limited to those symptoms, stay home. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or other health concerns please contact your doctor’s office, Longwood HUHS at 617-432-1370, and/or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800. If you are confirmed to have COVID-19, please contact Longwood HUHS at 617-432-1370 and get in touch with HR, your department chair, or unit head.
  • How should I think about what is essential versus non-essential and whether to convert to remote or cancel activities? As you may have seen in President Bacow’s message, the guidance is to “strongly discourage any non-essential meetings or events of 25 people or more on campus.” We know that more specific guidance will continue to be provided, for example, related to PhD dissertation defenses from GSAS, and from university HR. In the meantime, we suggest that all individuals consider whether they can meet remotely and if so, do so. When you are on campus, to the extent possible, practice all the measures that have been communicated about good public health practices and social distancing.

Finally, thank you for all you are doing during this challenging period and for keeping our community healthy and safe. We know that it will take strong collaboration and good communication to work together to meeting these challenges and we stand at the ready to help in every way that we can.


Jane, Katie, and Erin

Jane J. Kim
Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor of Health Decision Science

Katherine A. Hope
Executive Dean for Administration

Erin Driver-Linn
Dean for Education