Yale updates policies on mask requirements, gatherings
Yale will modify its indoor masking requirements and its policies for events, gatherings, and meetings based on recent public health conditions and the latest federal guidance, university leaders announced today.
As of March 21, masking will be optional except in the following settings: classroom and instructional spaces; campus transit vehicles, including buses; and health care facilities, including Yale Health and Yale Medicine settings.
Also, university gatherings may proceed in accordance with revised health and safety guidelines, and without the need for approval by the university’s COVID Review Team (CRT), leaders wrote in a message to the Yale community. Gatherings may include invited community members and hosted visitors who are fully vaccinated and boosted. They should follow:
- posted university “Events, Gatherings, & Meetings” guidance;
- any specific requirements provided by the host school or unit; and
- facility capacity recommendations.
The CRT will remain available to provide consultation and guidance on health and safety measures, particularly for large university events.
“Our community’s adherence to health and safety protocols over the past two years of this pandemic is exemplary,” Provost Scott Strobel, Senior Vice President for Operations Jack Callahan, and Vice Provost for Health Affairs & Academic Integrity Stephanie Spangler wrote in the message. “We answered the call to get vaccinated, resulting in a campus in which nearly all (95%+) faculty, students, and staff received the vaccine. Adherence to our booster requirement also is very high among students and increasing among faculty and staff.”
Speaking to the masking requirements specifically, they added: “We recognize that some of us will welcome this policy change, and others will still feel hesitant to unmask regardless of improved public health conditions. For most, choosing whether to mask will be a personal decision reflecting individual circumstances — such as underlying health conditions or caretaking responsibilities for those at higher risk — as well as comfort levels. As we move forward, we ask that mutual respect and civility continue to guide our behavior.”
The measured steps toward resumption of all on-campus activities are based on improved conditions on campus and in the surrounding community, they wrote, as well as on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which Spangler described in her weekly message to the community on March 4, 2022. She is the university’s COVID-19 coordinator.
The regional surge in the omicron variant during the months of December and January has abated, the leaders wrote. Hospitalizations have declined significantly, and effective therapies to prevent and treat serious COVID-19 illness are available.
“In our campus community, the numbers of new COVID-19 infections among faculty and staff remain low, and those among graduate and professional students are stable,” they wrote. “There has been a recent increase in undergraduate student cases; however, we have seen no student hospitalizations nor evidence of broader transmission in workplaces or classrooms.”
In addition to the locations where masking will still be required (identified above), masking is still required for those who have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, and/or have a university-sponsored exemption to vaccination. Masks are strongly encouraged for those who are fully vaccinated but have not yet received a booster.
The leaders also recommended that community members continue to carry masks so they are prepared to use them in spaces where it is required or desirable. High-quality masks, such as those Yale is distributing, not only protect the wearer from transmitting infection but also from becoming infected, they noted.
As these policy changes go into effect, Yale will continue to closely monitor the public health situation and adjust the guidance if there is a significant change in the pandemic. In their message, Strobel, Callahan, and Spangler said they “look forward to a more complete resumption of on-campus activities in the coming weeks” and that the university will continue with plans for in-person Commencement ceremonies in May.
“During this time of transition, it is essential that we remember how different this pandemic experience has been for each member of our community,” they wrote. “Some of us have had COVID, some have not. Some of us have lost loved ones and continue to mourn family and friends. Still others have missed in-person interactions with loved ones, students, teachers, colleagues, and mentors. And some of us face personal or family circumstances that require additional vigilance and protections. Everyone has felt the impact of this pandemic, and this is a time for grace and compassion — for ourselves and for one another as we do even more to come back together as a community.”
“We are grateful for our community members’ unwavering dedication to keeping each other safe throughout this pandemic. We are grateful, especially, to the dedicated staff who come to campus every day to feed our students, maintain our facilities, operate testing and vaccination sites, provide health and safety guidance, and deliver essential clinical care, among so many other essential contributions, all of which have sustained our community. Our work together makes it possible to envision brighter days ahead.”