Harvard moves first-year MBA students online amid rise in 'breakthrough' COVID-19 cases

Harvard Business School has opted to pivot back to remote learning as the first semester of 2021 begins, with school officials noting a “steady rise” in breakthrough COVID-19 infections, a potential harbinger of the challenges schools face as they work to reopen in-person learning.

Bloomberg reports that online classes will be in place until Oct. 3 for first-year MBA students, and that students are requested to halt all unmasked indoor activities, according to an email sent from the school on Monday. 

“Contact tracers who have worked with positive cases highlight that transmission is not occurring in classrooms or other academic settings on campus,” Mark Cautela, a spokesman for Harvard Business School, reportedly said. “Nor is it occurring among individuals who are masked.”

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Harvard Business School requires masks at all times while indoors, and has a proprietary dashboard monitoring COVID-19 testing results available for students and staff. While its undergraduate counterpart, Harvard University, requires vaccinations for students and faculty, the business school has yet to implement a similar mandate. 

Many colleges and universities experimenting with in-person learning after shuttering most live classes in 2020 are seeing new infections, even among highly-vaccinated populations. 

Breakthrough infections have been a major concern as contagious COVID-19 variants like delta circulate throughout the country. Combined with waning immunity levels offered by initial COVID-19 vaccinations, cases among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals have been rising for the past several months. 

Pennsylvania colleges in the Lehigh Valley area reported seeing a rising volume of breakthrough infections.

The faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also published a petition asking for remote learning for an additional four to six weeks in the first semester as the school saw new infections begin to spread in mid-August. Over 400 faculty members signed the petition.