New Guidance for Approval of Events and Gatherings

A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

This week I am pleased to report that the numbers of COVID-19 infections in our campus community remain low. Our high levels of vaccination and your diligence in participating in our testing and tracing programs and in following our health and safety guidelines have contributed immeasurably to our ability to reactivate so many on-campus programs this semester.

Throughout the pandemic, we have modified university policies to reflect changes in the public health landscape. Some of these modifications ease or increase restrictions; others may extend restrictions that were originally time limited. In this week’s message, I will provide you with information about an update to our policy on events, gatherings, and meetings (referred to hereafter as gatherings), address additional questions about contact tracing, and share options for receiving a flu vaccination.

What do I need to know about changes in the gathering policy?

Starting September 20, an updated policy on gatherings will go into effect. In some ways, this policy will be familiar to you, as the basic requirements for planning and participating in gatherings will remain the same. More specifically, gatherings must continue to meet the following conditions:

  • be open only to members of the Yale community (and, in certain circumstances, a limited number of visitors who comply with the Visitors Policy and who have been preapproved by the Health and Safety Leader (HSL));
  • be of limited duration and by invitation only;
  • not involve high-aerosolization activities (singing, woodwinds/brass, vigorous exercise) without prior approval;
  • comply with current mask requirements;
  • allow for unvaccinated individuals to maintain 6-foot distancing;
  • limit refreshments to individual servings; and
  • follow safe practices when eating and drinking.

However, with more students, faculty, and staff coming to campus and seeking to gather in a variety of settings, we felt it was important to update the policy to make clear when additional approvals of gathering plans are required:

  • Faculty, staff, and students may plan and participate in gatherings of twenty (20) or fewer individuals indoors and gatherings of fifty (50) or fewer individuals outdoors without the prior approval of the relevant HSL, provided the conditions above are observed.
  • Faculty, staff, and students who wish to plan gatherings larger than twenty (20) indoors or fifty (50) outdoors, or gatherings of any size in which the conditions above may not be met, must receive prior approval from the relevant HSL, who may require that additional health and safety measures be implemented.
  • The leadership of academic and administrative units, such as deans and vice presidents, may plan and host on-campus gatherings without additional approvals provided that they observe the conditions listed above and any additional guidance provided by the COVID Review Team (CRT).
  • Units, such as Athletics and Hospitality, with CRT-approved health and safety plans that address recurrent gatherings must follow those plans. Units wishing to establish a health and safety plan for recurrent gatherings should contact the CRT (covidreviewteam@yale.edu).

Contact tracing, one more time: Why aren’t more people notified when someone tests positive?

Following my message last week, I received additional questions about contact tracing and more specifically about the reason why entire groups, such as those in classrooms or workplaces, are not usually notified when one of their members tests positive for COVID-19.

Contact tracing uses current public health guidance and information provided by the person who tests positive for COVID-19 (the index case) to identify those individuals who are at the highest risk of becoming infected based upon their exposure to the index case. These individuals are called “close contacts.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified close contacts as individuals who have been within 6 feet of an index case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Based upon current knowledge about the course of a COVID-19 infection, the Yale Contact Tracing Team (YCTT) asks an index case about any close contacts they might have encountered up to 2 days before the index case became aware of their infection or developed symptoms.

Going above and beyond CDC’s contact tracing guidance, the YCTT also asks about activities in which the index case participated that may pose exposure risks for additional individuals who have not been identified as close contacts. All close contacts and any others identified as being at high risk of exposure are notified and instructed to test, monitor for symptoms, and, if unvaccinated, quarantine.

So why not notify the entire group at an event in which the index case participated? According to the leader of the YCTT, Professor Linda Niccolai, “The reason we do not make broader notifications to additional people not identified as close contacts is not only to protect the identity of the index case but also to avoid unnecessary anxiety in people who are at low risk of infection.”

All that said, please remember that COVID-19 testing is easy, readily available, and free for any member of the Yale community who has concerns about exposure to COVID-19 or would like to monitor their health on a regular basis. And the Campus COVID Resource Line (203-432-6604) stands ready to answer questions and provide advice.

Flu too?

Earlier this week, Yale Health CEO Dr. Paul Genecin sent a message to the Yale community stressing the importance of getting the flu vaccine, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yale Health makes flu shots available to all members of our community, regardless of Yale Health enrollment. You can review options and preregister for vaccination with the Find Your Flu Shot Tool (you will need your Yale NetID and password to access the tool).

Flu vaccination is required for students as part of the Community Compact and for our healthcare workers, and I strongly encourage the many other members of our community who are able to receive the flu vaccine to preregister for a shot today. Yale Health’s flu page has additional information and will be updated throughout the flu season.

I hope you find this information helpful as you reunite with colleagues and friends. Our shared commitment to following our policies and practicing our health and safety measures will allow us to enjoy the fall semester while 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