Masking, COVID-19 treatments, and travel
A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator
Last week, Provost Scott Strobel, Senior Vice President for Operations Jack Callahan, and I wrote to you about modifications to Yale’s indoor masking requirements and the events, gatherings, and meetings policy, effective March 21. These changes are based on public health conditions and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also recognize the high levels of vaccination and low levels of severe illness in our campus and surrounding communities.
Complete information about our updated masking requirements and events, gatherings, and meetings guidance will be available on the Yale COVID-19 site on March 21. In today’s message, I will provide some highlights of the new masking requirements, information on COVID-19 treatments available for those at high risk of severe illness, and, with the advent of spring break, a reminder of resources for safer travel.
When and where should I mask?
Masking continues to be an important tool in preventing COVID-19 infections. However, given the additional protections provided by vaccines, especially boosters, and the improved quality of masks, which can protect the wearer from becoming infected as well as from spreading infection, the decision to mask can now be a personal one in many settings. That said, personal circumstances and comfort levels with masking vary within our community. Therefore, there are some settings and individual circumstances where masking will still be required.
As of March 21, masking on campus will be optional except in the following settings:
- In classrooms and other instructional spaces: instructional spaces include teaching laboratories and studios but do not include research laboratories;
- On campus transit vehicles such as shuttle buses;
- In healthcare-related facilities, which include Yale Health, Yale Medicine, and Yale’s COVID-19 testing sites;
- In some settings, such as indoor performances and athletic competitions, where university hosts or sponsors explicitly require all attendees to mask.
And except for the following individuals who continue to be required to mask:
- Those who are not fully vaccinated, including those who have university-approved exemptions to vaccination;
- Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms and have permission to temporarily leave isolation (such as for a medical appointment);
- Those who are close contacts of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.
In other settings and circumstances, masking will be a personal decision. And, as we wrote last week, there are many reasons that an individual may choose to mask. It is important that we respect and support those decisions.
What are antiviral treatments for COVID-19, and when are they prescribed?
While news about vaccines has often taken center stage during the pandemic, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have also developed a number of effective treatments. Some antiviral medications, available under Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, have been shown to decrease the probability that an individual who is infected with COVID-19 will develop severe disease or require hospitalization. These medications and other COVID-19 treatments must be prescribed by a medical provider and are generally intended for patients who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. In order to be effective, they must be started soon after symptoms begin; therefore, it is important to contact your primary care provider as soon as possible after learning you have COVID-19 to see if you are eligible for treatment.
I am traveling over spring break. What do I need to know?
Travel can present additional risks for becoming infected with COVID-19, even for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Additionally, public health conditions and restrictions vary from place to place, so it is important to familiarize yourself with any applicable alerts or restrictions at your planned destination, as well as actions that may be required upon your return to Connecticut and Yale’s campus.
Associate Vice President, Donald Filer, recently provided students with guidance for travel during spring break that that should also prove helpful for faculty and staff. Additional guidance for safer travel and requirements for returning to campus are available in the Yale COVID-19 Travel Policy.
As we look forward to warmer days and the promise of renewal that springtime brings, I hope that each one of you will find opportunities to relax and reflect. Once again, thank you for your efforts to care for each other and our Yale campus community.
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