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Harvard's Vaccinated Athletes Tested Twice Weekly

Paul Steinbach

Harvard student-athletes haven't competed in a year and a half, and the university is taking no chances with their return to courts and fields this fall.

The Ivy League suspended all intercollegiate sports activity in March 2020, when the pandemic was just taking hold. Now, Harvard is requiring all participants in 42 sports — even those athletes who are vaccinated — to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week. Unvaccinated athletes will face three tests weekly. By comparison, the general student population must undergo one test per week.

As reported by The Harvard Crimson student newspaper, athletics director Erin McDermott explained in an emailed statement Monday that the department implemented the policy so that athletes can safely train and compete without face coverings this semester — in both indoor and outdoor sports. University guidelines otherwise require all affiliates to wear a mask indoors.

“Athletics consulted with HUHS [Harvard University Health Services] and EH&S [Environmental, Health & Safety] on plans for student-athletes to train and compete this fall. Part of that plan included seeking an exception for student-athletes in wearing masks inside while training and competing,” McDermott wrote. “The requirement in granting an exception is for the testing cadence to increase to twice per week.”

Brant D. Berkstresser, associate athletics director for student-athlete health and performance, wrote in an email announcing the policy to student athletes last week that the additional testing is “for the overall health and safety of yourselves and the Harvard Community.”

Liam J.C. Rotzoll, a member of the men’s squash team, told the Crimson he is willing to undergo a nasal swab one additional time per week if it enables him and his teammates to compete for Harvard. “Whatever needs to be done for the season to go through smoothly should be done,” said Rotzoll, who adds that playing with a face covering is not ideal.

Rotzoll called the university's decision "a great resolution," and teammate Conner H. Stoltz agreed, telling the Crimson, “I’m always sweating a lot so when I’m halfway through the game, it’s just a mask sticking to my face, which makes it even harder to breathe. So I definitely think it makes a difference. I really hope they don’t change that.”

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