Going Yellow on February 7
A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator
Dear Members of the Yale Community,
Today we are looking forward to the full resumption of in-person teaching and learning and the return of many staff to campus beginning on Monday, February 7. The now favorable trajectory of the latest COVID-19 surge and your diligence in following vaccination requirements and health and safety guidelines have enabled us to reach this milestone. In recognition of substantial improvement in numbers of hospitalizations and rates of COVID-19 infections in Connecticut and in our campus community compared to the beginning of the year, we plan to move the campus alert level from Orange (moderate risk) to Yellow (low to moderate risk) on February 7. In this message, I will provide more detail about what that means and what other changes to expect.
What does Yellow mean and how did we get there?
The Yellow campus alert level identifies a low to moderate risk of COVID-19 transmission on our campus, while also recognizing there is still the potential for future outbreaks and clusters and new surges in infection rates.
University leaders closely monitor a number of public health conditions and set the campus alert level based not only on the absolute number of infections on campus, but also on broader trends, projections from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and guidance from the university’s public health experts.
Some of the factors considered include:
- infection and hospitalization rates in New Haven and the State of Connecticut;
- levels of and trends in COVID-19 mRNA found in New Haven city sewage;
- numbers of and trends in new cases on campus, including evidence of outbreaks or widespread transmission;
- occupancy of on-campus isolation housing as a proportion of capacity; and
- emergence of new COVID-19 variants that might be more efficiently transmitted or that might render our highly vaccinated campus population more vulnerable to infection.
When these metrics and trends are favorable and there is no evidence of widespread transmission or new variants of concern, the university can consider lowering the campus alert level. Conversely, if any of these factors are unfavorable the campus alert level may be increased. That said, the alert level is a very broad and general indicator. The university can and does adjust health and safety measures in response to regular monitoring without changing the alert level.
What will change when we move to Yellow?
Some significant changes that will accompany our move to Yellow have already been announced—namely, the resumption of in-person teaching and learning and the return of many of our staff to campus on February 7. If current conditions remain stable or improve, we also anticipate an earlier return to less restrictive policies for events, gatherings, and meetings and for campus visitors—beginning on February 11 rather than February 21, as was originally planned. The new events, gatherings and meetings and visitors policies are now posted online so you can plan your future activities.
Of course, being Yellow does not mean that we are free from the risks of infection and outbreaks. Therefore it is extremely important to follow those health and safety guidelines that remain in effect, including wearing properly fitted masks in indoor settings, adhering to required testing schedules, and being up to date on vaccinations and boosters. Maintaining these layers of protection will enable us to continue to relax restrictions in the weeks ahead.
How do I identify higher quality masks?
Yale Environmental Health and Safety also provides extensive information about masks. When purchasing masks for personal use, please remember that many masks ordered through commercial venues vary in quality, even when they are labeled with familiar terms such as “KN95.” A recent media post includes guidelines that may help you avoid counterfeit masks.
We look forward to the rest of the spring semester with optimism, thanks in no small part to the community’s sustained and diligent efforts. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will regularly and carefully monitor public health conditions and guidance and make and communicate adjustments in our policies when indicated. Many thanks, as ever, for your partnership in keeping our campus as safe as possible.
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