Update on Masks and Vaccines (2/12/21)


  • What’s up with masks?
  • Why should you get vaccinated?
  • A visit with the teams behind the scenes

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

As I write this message, there is promising news about the COVID-19 pandemic on several fronts. The pace of vaccinations is increasing as the federal government seeks to make more vaccine doses available and as states create more venues for eligible individuals to receive vaccinations. Governor Lamont has just expanded vaccine eligibility in Connecticut to include individuals from 65 to 74 years of age and the state has added a number of new vaccination sites, including pharmacies. 

Across the country COVID-19 positivity rates are declining after reaching a post-holiday peak in early to mid-January. While these trends may, in part, simply reflect a reduction in the total number of tests being performed, other indicators, such as recent decreases in hospitalizations, signal that infections themselves are on the decline.

All that said, COVID-19 infection levels locally and nationally are high. The majority of towns in Connecticut (155, out of a total of 169), including New Haven, remain in red alert status based upon average daily new cases. On our own campus, we have seen many more infections at the beginning of this spring semester than we did in the early fall. So, as we look forward with hope, we must strengthen our resolve to follow all the health and safety measures that have helped us to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on our campus and in our broader community.

What’s up with masks?

Wearing appropriate and well-fitting facial coverings whenever we are in the presence of people outside of our households is one of our most important strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on face coverings this week. This guidance is based on a recent CDC study that highlighted the importance of good fit to optimize protection from the release of and exposure to infected droplets and aerosols.

More specifically, the CDC guidance emphasizes the importance of:

  • choosing a face covering, whether cloth or disposable, that has multiple layers; and
  • making sure that the face covering fits snugly with no side gaps.

The guidance also describes several strategies for improving the fit and function of your face covering including adding layers of material and knotting and tucking ear loops, as demonstrated in this video.

Environmental Health and Safety has updated its website to reflect this guidance and to provide additional information of importance for the Yale community.

Should you get vaccinated?

The most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to create immunity in a large proportion of the population through mass vaccination programs. As I detailed in my message earlier this week, the state of Connecticut has extended eligibility for vaccination to individuals who are 65 to 74 years of age. The Yale COVID-19 Vaccine Program (the Program) has already issued invitations to all Yale employees and Yale Health members who fall into this new eligibility category and acceptance rates are high. That said, until we reach nearly universal acceptance of vaccination, we will not effectively stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Although the state vaccination program has focused thus far largely on individuals who are considered at high risk for severe disease, I encourage you to be vaccinated when you become eligible, even if you feel you are in a lower risk group. Your participation is important not only because broad vaccination is essential to stopping transmission of COVID-19 but also because emerging information shows that even those in groups considered low risk can have serious illness and long-term effects when infected with the virus.

Given the ever-evolving information about this novel virus and the relative rapidity with which vaccines have been developed, it is natural that some of you have questions about the safety, side effects, and effectiveness of vaccination—questions that may cause hesitation in accepting the invitation to be vaccinated. Based on your messages and input from focus groups and departmental meetings, the Program has collected and responded to commonly asked questions. I hope that you will review these responses and submit your own questions to yhvaccine@yale.edu.

Additionally, my office (203-432-4446) is available to arrange departmental vaccine information sessions where you can hear presentations from experts and have the opportunity to pose your own questions to them. I have received very positive feedback from those who have already attended one of these sessions.

A visit with the teams behind the scenes

It has been extraordinary to see how many members of our community have come together during the pandemic to create new programs and procedures to protect the health and safety of our campus and the broader New Haven community. This week I had the opportunity to meet with some of those dedicated individuals—those who staff the Campus COVID Resource Line (CCRL), the COVID-19 Test Resulting Team, and the Care Management Team. These individuals have worked daily and tirelessly over the past many months to answer a broad array of COVID-19-related questions from community members; to inform and advise, with skill and sensitivity, those who have tested positive for COVID-19; and to monitor and support, with clinical and comfort care, those who are in isolation. I was impressed to hear about the scope of issues that these teams address—from symptoms to mental health to human resource policies to laundry locations—and learned much from their observations of pandemic trends and impacts. I hope you will join me in extending thanks for their efforts—and I hope you will not hesitate to call the CCRL (203-432-6604) with any questions you have.

Even with signs of encouragement for the future, I must remind you that for the time being it is vitally important that we all continue to follow our preventive health and safety measures, adhere to testing schedules, and work together to keep the Yale community as healthy as possible. Thank you as always for your partnership and diligence as we face the pandemic together.


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