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Harvard Business School goes back to remote classes for first-year MBA students after eruption of Covid-19 'cluster'

It's like March, 2020 again at the Harvard Business School, which has ordered a week-long return to remote-only education for first-year MBA students, because it seems too many future masters of the universe have been ignoring basic Covid-19 precautions - to the point where the business school made up two-thirds of new Covid-19 cases among Harvard students this month despite comprising only 9% of the total school population.

In one of a series of messages to students, the school says it hopes a week of remote teaching will let the business school put a damper on what is now an "active cluster" and keep it from getting worse:

Harvard University leaders, advised by city and state public health officials, now tell us that we must consider the MBA Program an active cluster and escalate our approach - hit a "circuit breaker" and get in front of the virus rather than react to it. ... Feedback from the contact tracers who have worked with positive cases among our student population highlights that transmission is not occurring in our classroom or other academic settings on our campus. Nor is it occurring among individuals who are masked. Rather, it is occurring as a result of numerous unmasked, indoor activities - everything from sharing an Airbnb for the weekend, to dinner gatherings in an apartment, to larger parties.

Harvard's Covid-19 dashboard shows most of the 70 positive tests among Harvard students and staff between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24 were among graduate students. The site does not break out the numbers by school, however.

The dashboard says 95% of all students, and 96% of professors and staff, are fully vaccinated. Public-health officials have continued to urge people to socially distance and to wear masks indoors at parties and in such places as restaurants, because of the dramatically increased virulence of the delta variant.



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And you can't golden parachute your way off a Covid ventilator, MBAs.

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Assuming the budding MBAs are, like other Harvard students, mostly vaccinated, the odds of them requiring ICU care is low - you're not seeing stories of overburdened ICUs in Massachusetts (save in Worcester, which has other issues, like a strike at St. Vincent) like you are in states that now have to ration care because our vaccination rate is pretty high.

So vaccines do work to protect people, yay. The problem, of course, is that by letting down their guard in other ways, they are potentially helping to spread a virus that can kill people who, for whatever reasons are not vaccinated, so boo. And even "mild" breakthrough cases can be pretty miserable.

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Wonder if they were wearing golden masks.

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Anytime I hear anyone gush about how good the place is, I remind them that Dubya got his MBA at the Harvard B school.

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There are exceptions, like the presumed mayor elect.

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Michelle Wu did not go to Harvard Business School. Students at the Business School are very different from Harvard undergrads and law students.

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I mean I'm not a Dubya fan and he sure did have some goofiness to him... But dude did manage to make money, become Governor of Texas and then managed to be one a two term president despite competing against Al Gore and then war hero with a pedigree married into uberwealth John Kerry. Yes daddy was president before him and yes much of his success was because of those he surrounded himself with but he beat his seemingly smarter brother to the punch and did manage to pretty much get everything he wanted. Just because those were things you didn't want doesn't mean he is dumb.

Which I think is one of the weirdest things about the years he was President. He got what he wanted. His people got what they wanted. Now he gets to run around painting things, hangs out with Michelle Obama and Ellen and somehow gets less blame for Iraq than Joe Biden. How dumb is he really?

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If public health officials are really telling people to mask up in restaurants, that makes no sense. How can you eat and drink with a mask? If being unmasked in a restaurant is dangerous, they should be recommending an official ban on indoor dining. It's not that hard. I've done it myself.

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They're saying wear a mask when you enter a restaurant and while you walk around or go up to the bar, but take it off when you're eating.

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The idea indoor dining is safe if you wear a mask while walking to the table or the bathroom but it's OK to take the mask off from the first sip of water until the the last bite of desert.

Either indoor dining when everyone is vaxxed is safe or it isn't. Wearing a mask for a short time before and after the meal isn't going to change that substantially.

I don't know how this all ends but if Harvard's approach - mandatory vaccination, frequent testing, masks required indoors - still isn't good enough, it's unlikely this is going to end until most people get infected. (Those who are vaccinated won't die.)

Good on Harvard to be able to test weekly and be able to switch to remote but that's not something most people can do. And I just don't see people avoiding restaurants and social gatherings with food + wearing masks indefinitely if that's what it takes to avoid an infection.

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contact tracers who have worked with positive cases among our student population highlights that transmission is not occurring in our classroom or other academic settings on our campus

This is consistent with what other schools who actually operated their campuses in the area during the previous academic year had found. In the spaces where the school mandated precautions were enforced, there was little transmission but in spaces where those same individuals did things that were advised against, it did spread.

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Safety isn't binary. You're framing a world where an activity is either SAFE or it is NOT SAFE.

In fact, there is no activity that is either. Everything -- using an escalator, swimming in a pond in the Arboretum, walking near urban turkeys, hanging out at Franklin Field at 9pm, driving in Allston at Cambridge St at 3am are all somewhere in between SAFE and UNSAFE.

So too is being in a restaurant. One way to *mitigate* the danger -- that is, to move the danger farther from UNSAFE and closer to SAFE -- is to wear a mask when you're not eating. Wearing a mask in a restaurant isn't SAFE, and not wearing one isn't UNSAFE. But wearing a mask part time in a restaurant is more safe than the identical activity without a mask. And since restaurants involve lots of people who don't otherwise spend time breathing the same air, it's a place where mitigating risk is helpful.

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"You can eat indoors but keep your mask on when not actively eating" was *stupid* earlier in the pandemic, but with most people being vaccinated it's less obviously idiotic.

There's a lot of room for interpretation, though. If people are actually unmasking for the entire time they're seated, I really don't think there's any difference from just being unmasked the whole time. If they're actually masking up while waiting for their food or waiting for the check or just generally when not actively eating, that could make some sense, though.

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That's one possible scenario.

Another is that wearing a mask in a restaurant except while you're eating is only negligibly safer than not wearing one at all in the restaurant.

It's because of that possibility that I just stay out of restaurants entirely.

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I'd bet several of these kids are using fake vax cards to 'disrupt the system' at Harvard. They'll have a bright future destroying companies and aiding foreign despots for McKinsey or maybe at the Kushner Group.

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