Coming together with safety in Mind: Healthy Yale

A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator


  • Why gathering in the classroom is permitted, but large social gatherings are discouraged
  • Guidelines for socializing more safely
  • Where to find wellness resources in stressful times

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

With the recent arrival of our undergraduate students, in-person learning is now underway in Yale College and in our graduate and professional schools across campus. This is an exciting moment made possible by the hard work of the entire community over the past many months.

A number of you have asked, including during last week’s Yale Town Hall, why we may gather in large groups in the classroom at the same time we are asked to limit our participation in large social gatherings. In this message, I will address the difference between these settings; provide information about how you can socialize with friends, classmates, and colleagues more safely; and share wellness resources to help support us all during these exciting yet still stressful times.

Why is gathering in the classroom permitted while large social gatherings are discouraged?

The characteristics of our classroom activities are generally quite different than those typical of a social gathering. For example:

  • Most, if not all, students and faculty in our classrooms are vaccinated, whereas the vaccination status of those who participate in social gatherings, especially large ones, is often unknown.
  • All of our unvaccinated students and faculty and many of our vaccinated students undergo regular testing so that we can identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 and prevent transmission in the classroom, whereas few gatherings have similar testing requirements.
  • Students in a classroom are seated throughout the class, while those who attend social gatherings frequently move about, mingle, and interact closely with others.
  • Students in our classrooms are masked throughout the class and prohibited from eating and drinking while those who attend social gatherings are often unmasked, especially when eating and drinking.
  • The ventilation in our classroom spaces has been evaluated by Environmental Health and Safety experts, whereas ventilation may not have been evaluated and may not be adequate in other indoor gathering spaces.
  • Our contact tracing efforts over the past year and a half have shown very little evidence of COVID-19 transmission in workplace or classroom settings, while a large number of our cases and clusters have been associated with social gatherings.

But I have been looking forward to spending time with classmates and colleagues. How can I do that safely on- and off-campus?

Coming to campus provides a welcome opportunity to connect with classmates and colleagues. As I have shared above, social gatherings carry risk. However, our events, gatherings, and meetings guidelines include information about how to socialize with others more safely. Your Health and Safety Leader can help you understand these guidelines and develop strategies to add protective measures to your event plans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides guidance for safer event planning to help you decide whether and how to host or attend an event. According to the CDC, some key factors to keep in mind are:

  • Location: outdoors is better
  • Size: the smaller, the better
  • Duration: the shorter, the better
  • Proximity: crowding should be avoided
  • Behaviors of attendees: activities like shouting and those involving physical exertion should be avoided

I’m happy to be here, but I’m also feeling stressed. How can I find resources to help?

The excitement that comes with the beginning of the fall semester may, unfortunately, be accompanied by the stress of a continuing and ever-changing pandemic. As I close this week’s message, I want to take the opportunity to remind you that Yale offers many resources to support your physical and mental well-being.

For students:

For faculty and staff:

I hope that this weekend offers you opportunities to relax and spend time safely with friends and family. I look forward to your continued partnership and diligence as we begin this new semester together on campus.

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