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As part of its new Covid-19 public health measures for the spring semester, Harvard will provide KN95 masks to students upon request.
Harvard has allotted 30 masks per student each month, according to an email from College spokesperson Rachael Dane. Freshmen can procure the masks from Yard Operations, and upperclassmen should request them from their house building managers.
The new policy by the University comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on face masks, clarifying that cloth masks offer the least protection against Covid, while KN95s and N95s offer the most.
Each school at the University will handle the KN95 mask distribution on its own, according to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton. He wrote in an email that the University set up contracts to purchase the masks, but the schools can use them “based on their supply needs.”
Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen wrote in Wednesday email to affiliates that the school had seen a decline in its positivity rate compared to early January, when the Omicron variant led to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
“Looking ahead, public health experts anticipate the most recent Omicron-driven surge will be in decline in the coming weeks,” he wrote. “The policies and protocols we have put in place enable us to continue on-campus academic activities, while also keeping our community safe.”
Nguyen urged affiliates to wear high-quality masks, including a “surgical-style mask or a cup-style protective mask such as KN-95.” He noted the importance of finding a mask that is both airtight and comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
“Masks continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of transmission regardless of vaccine status,” Nguyen wrote.
Junior Aakash Mishra ’23 said he usually purchases his own KN95 masks but had not previously heard of the option to request them from the school.
“I would definitely request it because I mean, free masks, right?” he said. “I definitely need more, and I don't want to spend more money on it.”
Rhocar B. Constant ’24 said that he does not expect to request KN95 masks, but added that the option to request high-quality masks will be helpful to others on campus.
“I think that's dope for people that need that and would feel more comfortable with that,” he said. “I don't think a lot of people use it, but I think the people that do use it will use it a lot.”
Correction: January 31, 2022
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated upperclassmen could pick up high-quality masks from their house administrators. In fact, they can pick up the masks from their house building managers.
—Staff writer Vivian Zhao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Lucas J. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
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