Change in alert status to green
A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator
Dear Members of the Yale Community,
I am writing to you early this week to make sure you are aware of two new developments. One is the recent change in our campus COVID-19 alert level. Another relates to long-awaited news about the eligibility of younger children for the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine.
What does it mean to go green?
Last year, soon after the onset of the pandemic, the university established a color-coded alert system, ranging from green to red, to inform the community of the state of COVID-19 infections on our campus and to remind us of the measures we must take to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In setting alert levels, university leaders, in consultation with our public health experts, regularly review a number of parameters, including infection levels on campus and in our surrounding area.
Today, university leaders moved the campus alert status from yellow (low to moderate risk) to green (lower risk). This decision is based upon the recent low levels of COVID-19 infections among members of our campus community, which, in turn, reflect the positive impact of our combined efforts, including vaccination, testing, and masking, to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
As a reminder, state and federal agencies also maintain color-coded notification systems. However, it is important to note that those systems, while often using the same colors, reflect different parameters measured over populations that are larger and more dispersed than our campus community.
What will change now that we are green?
The move to green is largely a reflection of the relatively low levels of COVID-19 infections in our campus community, which allow us to cautiously relax some of our COVID-19 restrictions. More specifically:
· The events, gatherings, and meetings policy has been modified to allow community members to plan and hold events without prior approvals in most cases, as long as these events are held in Yale spaces, include only Yale faculty, staff, students, and trainees, and meet certain conditions, including those pertaining to facility capacity.
· The requirement that food provided at gatherings be prepackaged has been eliminated.
· The COVID Review Team (CRT) has developed criteria to allow audiences and spectators from the broader community to attend indoor competitions and performances (consult your Health and Safety Leader (HSL) if you wish to schedule this type of event).
· The expectation that vaccinated individuals mask outdoors has been eliminated, except in the context of dense social gatherings.
What about masks indoors?
While infection levels on our campus are currently low, transmission rates in much of Connecticut, including New Haven County, remain at substantial or high levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At these levels, CDC guidance as well as a recent White House directive call for indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status. These levels also serve as a reminder that the pandemic is far from over and the risk of infection remains. So for now, as I explained in last week’s message, the university still requires that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wears a mask while indoors in the presence of others.
COVID-19 testing has proved to be one of our most important layers of protection throughout the pandemic, allowing us to quickly identify and isolate positive cases and monitor for clusters and outbreaks of infection. Additionally, the information provided by our robust testing program plays an important role in the decision-making about changes in our alert level. Therefore, current testing requirements for undergraduates and certain graduate and professional students, as well as for all students, faculty, and staff who have vaccine exemptions, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Nothing about the pandemic is certain except that conditions do change. As we continue to monitor the public health landscape both on campus and in our wider community, I will update you in my messages about any changes in public health conditions and health and safety policies and guidelines. You may also find current information about alert levels and health and safety policies on Yale’s COVID-19 website.
What’s the news about COVID-19 vaccines and children?
As anticipated, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5-11. This week, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for this age group, and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed that recommendation.
Extending the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to younger children is an important next step in combating the pandemic. According to Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist, “In addition to protecting children from COVID-19, [vaccination] offers another layer of protection to close family members and contacts who… may be at higher risk for severe complications of the disease.”
If you have questions about the risks and benefits of the vaccine for your child, you should speak with your child’s healthcare provider. Information about the vaccine for children is also available from the CDC.
Vaccinations for children ages 5-11 are available by appointment:
- for Yale Health members through the Yale COVID-19 Vaccine Program at its 310 Winchester Avenue clinic; and
- for all families regardless of Yale Health membership through Yale New Haven Health or other options throughout the state.
Once again, thank you for your deep and sustained commitment to keeping our campus as safe as possible. It is that shared commitment and the efforts of so many that have allowed us to go green.
Stephanie S. Spangler, M.D.
Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity
Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences
University COVID-19 Coordinator