Supporting Mask-wearing, Whatever the Reason (7/16/21)
A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator
Dear Members of the Yale Community,
You may have noted that I did not send my weekly message to the whole community last week. Instead, I corresponded individually with those faculty, staff, and postdoctoral and postgraduate trainees who had not yet submitted their vaccination information or requested an exemption from vaccination. Many of you responded to these messages and our campus vaccination rates are rising. However, a number of you have not yet submitted the required information or exemption request. Since fulfilling this requirement may take some time, you should start the process now, if you have not already done so, in order to meet the August 1 deadline.
As a reminder:
- If you need to confirm or submit your vaccination records, please go to the Yale Vaccine Portal.
- If you need to schedule an appointment to receive a vaccine, you may do so either on campus at the Rose Center (101 Ashmun St.) or anywhere in the state through the CT Department of Health vaccine portal.
- If you plan to request an exemption, access and complete the relevant exemption form on the Yale Vaccine Portal.
If you need help completing any of these steps, please consult the tip sheet compiled by the Yale COVID-19 Vaccine Program, call the Campus COVID Resource Line (203-432-6604), or, if you are a manager, request onsite support for your staff by contacting the Employee Service Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, if you have received an approved exemption or plan to submit a request, or if you have not submitted your vaccination information, you must follow masking, distancing, the Daily Health Check, weekly COVID-19 testing, and other health and safety requirements.
Mask-wearing on campus: is it only for the unvaccinated?
Last week, new on-campus guidance went into effect for those who are fully vaccinated and have submitted documentation to the university. Under this guidance, fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks in most settings, practice physical distancing, perform the Daily Health Check, or participate in routine, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
Does this mean you can assume that anyone you see on campus wearing a mask is unvaccinated? The simple answer is “no.”
While those who are unvaccinated are required to wear masks indoors and in certain outdoor settings on campus, there are many reasons why someone who is vaccinated may choose to continue to wear a mask. Some may have been advised or feel that they remain at greater risk for COVID-19 infection despite being vaccinated. Some may have concerns for family members who are unable to be vaccinated at this time. Still others have recognized the benefits of mask-wearing beyond preventing transmission of COVID-19, such as reducing exposure to allergens or to colds and other respiratory illnesses. And some simply continue to feel more comfortable wearing a mask in public settings.
In addition, there are situations in which all of us must continue to wear masks, regardless of our vaccination status including:
- When using public or university transportation, including university shuttles.
- In certain other settings, including health care facilities such as Yale Health, as required by the state of Connecticut.
- Other occasional situations, such as large assemblies, where mask wearing is explicitly required.
Most importantly, we should be supportive and respectful of our mask-wearing colleagues and not make assumptions about their reasons for wearing a mask.
Testing is another important tool
The recent campus guidance also included the requirement that those on campus who have an exemption or who have not submitted their vaccination information must participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. Additionally, even individuals who have documented their vaccination information must continue to test until they are considered fully vaccinated (i.e., two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine). We know that regular testing to detect and quickly isolate cases of COVID-19 was an effective way to keep infections low on campus when vaccination was not yet available. While vaccination remains our best defense against the pandemic, regular testing of unvaccinated individuals is a critical feature of the university’s health and safety program for the fall of 2021, especially as the extremely infectious delta variant of COVID-19 becomes more prevalent.
If you come to campus and have an exemption or have not submitted your vaccination information, you must schedule your required tests through the Yale COVID-19 Screening Program. If you fail to do so, you will receive an electronic notification and may be contacted by your Health and Safety Leader.
I am pleased and grateful that current circumstances allow so many of us to convene again on campus. That said, I also realize that times of transition bring uncertainties as well as opportunities. The university has a number of resources in place to answer COVID-19-related and workplace questions and to provide faculty, staff and students with support. I encourage you to use these resources and to continue your extraordinary efforts to keep 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