The University Adapts to Updated CDC Guidance (7/30/21)
A Message from the COVID-19 Coordinator
Dear Members of the Yale Community,
Earlier today Provost Scott Strobel and Senior Vice President Jack Callahan shared with you the university’s decision to require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor campus spaces except when alone, such as in a private office or seated in a partitioned cubicle. This decision was made in accordance with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In my message today, I will provide you with additional information about the CDC’s recent actions and the university’s decision.
The CDC, Delta, and Masks
On Tuesday, the CDC issued new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals. This guidance is based upon current observations about the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19, which now accounts for the majority of infections in the U.S. More specifically, it appears that the small number of vaccinated individuals who become infected with the Delta variant, although rarely seriously ill or hospitalized, may still be able to transmit the infection. This risk of transmission from vaccinated individuals was thought to be extremely unlikely until the emergence of the Delta variant. The new CDC guidance is designed to lower the risk of such transmission.
In its new guidance, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals across the country should:
- Wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of “substantial” or “high transmission.”
- Consider wearing a mask indoors regardless of the level of local transmission if they have a weakened immune system or if, because of age or an underlying medical condition, they are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of their household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Get tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.
- Isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Yesterday afternoon, the CDC’s tracking system classified New Haven County as experiencing a “substantial” rate of transmission due to an increase in the number of infections over the last week. In accordance with this classification and the CDC guidance bolded above, the university has reinstated its requirement that vaccinated as well as unvaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor campus spaces except when alone, such as in a private office or seated in a partitioned cubicle.
While it is prudent to take this additional precaution, please know that:
- COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, and are extremely effective in preventing severe disease and death from variants—including the Delta variant—currently circulating in the United States.
- COVID-19 “breakthrough” infections, even with the Delta variant, occur in only a very small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated; and when these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.
- Data released this week from both the CDC and the state of Connecticut confirm that—even during this recent period when the Delta variant has become dominant—unvaccinated individuals remain many times more likely to become infected or to suffer severe health outcomes. Vaccination remains, by far, our most effective and important tool for combatting COVID-19.
I am unvaccinated and wearing my mask. Why must I test as well?
Public health experts recommend a “layered approach” to reduce infection with COVID-19. The most effective “layer” by far is vaccination. However, masking and testing each have an extremely important role to play. Indeed, it was our adherence to masking, distancing, and regular asymptomatic testing of certain on-campus populations that allowed us to conduct our academic programs last fall—before vaccines were available—with low rates of infections and very few outbreaks.
Why testing? We know that many COVID-19 infections occur—or at least begin—in people who have no symptoms. Regular asymptomatic testing allows us to identify infections quickly and, by isolating infected individuals, interrupt the chain of transmission to others. To prevent outbreaks as we invite more individuals to return to campus, the university is requiring all faculty, staff, trainees, and students who are not fully vaccinated to undergo regular asymptomatic testing when they return to campus. The test, which involves the use of a self-administered swab in the front of the nostrils, is quick and painless and is available at sites across campus.
One more time…please submit your vaccination documentation or request an exemption.
Once again, I must emphasize the critical importance of vaccination in preventing COVID-19 infection and transmission and remind all faculty, staff, postdoctoral and postgraduate trainees, and students of the requirement to submit vaccination documentation or request an exemption from the vaccination requirement by August 1, or, in the case of students, at the deadlines set by their schools. These deadlines apply even if individuals will not be returning to campus until later in the fall.
If you aren’t sure if your vaccination status has been recorded, you may confirm it online through either the student or employee vaccine portal; call the Campus COVID Resource Line (203-432-6604); or contact your Health and Safety Leader.
Changes in guidance can feel confusing or even worrisome. However, they also reflect the vigilance and wisdom of public health experts in monitoring and adapting to the continually shifting circumstances that have characterized this pandemic. We are committed to keeping you informed as changes occur. Your continued partnership in adapting to those changes will allow us to move forward 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