Harvard University COVID-19 updates

Department Message from the Chair

Message from the Chair

September 4th, 2020

Dear MCB Community,

Welcome to the 2020-2021 academic year. We are about to embark on a semester that will be full of challenges, and opportunities to rise to those challenges with creativity and strength. To our incoming freshman and G1 classes, we welcome you with open arms – from a distance, but warmly nonetheless. Our faculty and teaching staff have worked diligently throughout the summer to ensure that remote teaching will be as engaging, fun, and interactive as possible, and we think you will be pleased with the results.

To the rest of our community – six eventful months since the University went into emergency lockdown – I want to thank you all for your continued resilience in a year of uncertainty, strife, and loss. We have had to make sacrifices this year, and I am proud of our community for showing extraordinary resolve, flexibility, and innovation. Many MCB researchers are back to work in our labs, though many of us continue to work at home. Those coming to campus are obligated to work under inconvenient restrictions. All of us, especially those working from home, have had to find new ways of connecting with colleagues and supporting each other in a virtual environment. And yet, we continue to focus on excellence and to find ways to work together despite the challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we can innovate, we can re-frame the way we think about problems, and we can create new opportunities and pathways to reach our goals for academic and scientific excellence. I am also proud to say that, as of this writing, we have not experienced any cases of community transmission of COVID-19 within MCB since our re-occupancy (knock on wood), although we have had a few positive cases that have been acquired outside MCB. We cannot make things perfectly safe in these times, but we do aim to make the MCB workplace environment at least as safe as the rest of our daily lives. I thank you all for your continued commitment and diligence in following our re-occupancy principles, and keeping our community as safe as possible.

The University is in the process of transitioning from supervised COVID-19 testing by appointment at a few campus locations to self-administered testing at higher frequency.  If you are authorized to be on campus more than 4 hours per week, you are expected to be tested routinely. Please keep an eye on the Harvard University Health Services website for the most up to date information on the means and frequency of testing for your particular situation. Expect emails in the coming few weeks that will tell you how to transition to the new unsupervised tests. HUHS is closely monitoring daily pandemic data and may update their guidance accordingly. To see a campus-wide summary of testing results, Harvard has put up an information dashboard. Currently, only about 0.1% of tests in the Harvard community have been positive, which is well below the rate for Cambridge, Boston, or Massachusetts.

One tradition that MCB will not allow the pandemic to cancel is our annual retreat. This year’s event has been dubbed the “MCB BioPalooza” and it will be held virtually, from September 23-25. One advantage of being in the virtual environment is that we will be able to include the entire MCB community for the first time ever to participate in the event. The event will kick off with a special screening of the documentary film Picture a Scientist and panel discussion on the experiences of women and people of color in STEM, to be followed by several virtual events, including our traditional award presentations, as well as some new community building activities.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities that this semester will bring, I encourage you to be kind to each other and reach out to colleagues who may be struggling. Here at MCB, where connections between people spark collaborative approaches to scientific inquiry, fostering the health and well-being of each and every member of our community is more critical now than ever.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me with comments, questions, and suggestions. Remember, this too shall pass. Stay safe and stay strong, and together we will get through.

Sean Eddy

Chair, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology



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