Lucas Holter

Hours after the first two known cases of COVID-19 — a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus — were reported in Connecticut, Yale Health Director Paul Genecin and University Provost Scott Strobel said in a community-wide email Saturday evening that all regularly scheduled University courses and dining operations are slated to continue as scheduled.

Connecticut is among the last states in New England to officially report the new virus within its borders. Still, the virus has only been spotted among healthcare workers who commute to the Nutmeg State from New York — and not among residents. As of Saturday evening, Yale has no known cases of COVID-19. 

The email also issued new guidelines for Yale community members in hopes of halting the virus’s spread. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to “postpone, cancel, or adjust” all Yale-hosted events — excluding classes — that are expected to have at least 100 participants. According to the email, this recommendation will apply to events from Monday, March 9, to April 15, three weeks before the last day of final exams in Yale College. 

Spring recess began for Yale undergraduates this Friday and will end March 22.

Genecin also suggested specific adjustments that event planners can implement to reduce the risk of virus transmission, including remote participation and relocation to larger venues. That way, he said, attendees can “maintain their distance from one another.”

The guidelines “are based on the status of the situation today,” Genecin wrote. But they could change: “Developments are fluid and moving quickly,” he added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the new virus can spread to those in close contact — within about six feet — and is thought to travel through droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. But there is still more research to be done: On the CDC website, a disclaimer at the top of the page states, in bold letters, that the center is still learning how it spreads.

Yale’s recommendations come after scores of universities across the nation have taken direct steps to limit travel and cancel classes in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this week, Stanford University announced it would move classes online starting next week after a doctor in the medical school was confirmed to have COVID-19. Starting this Monday, the University of Washington has moved all classes online through their winter quarter, which ends on March 20. And the University of Connecticut announced Saturday that all student international group travel would be suspended “until further notice.”

Yale has not yet taken such steps. According to the email, the University has made online video conference software available for all community members.

“We are mindful that some schools began spring recess yesterday evening. Many of us are thinking ahead to our return to campus,” he wrote in his community-wide email. “If events dictate that we must take more significant action than what is described here, we will provide further updates. For now, we are operating under the assumption that classes will begin again as scheduled.”

In an email statement provided to the News, Strobel and Genecin reiterated that there are “currently no plans to cancel any classes.”

“If absolutely necessary, we will use technology to allow classes to be held online. We are continuing to develop our response as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive guidance from health experts at Yale and from the Centers for Disease Control and other governmental sources,” they said.

In the months after the new coronavirus originated in central China, Yale has asked community members returning from areas of high virus activity to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days. The University has also urged all outgoing faculty, students and staff to register their travel plans through its website. According to an email earlier this week, University Spokeswoman Karen Peart, experts from the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine have advised the University as it works to update existing pandemic response plans in case the virus spreads.

As of Saturday, 164 total cases have been reported to the CDC. According to a report from the New Haven Register, a member of the Bach Choir is currently self-isolating in New Haven after coming in contact with an infected person in London. The choir intended to perform with Yale groups and Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker as part of a five-city tour, which has since been canceled.

Updated: March 7, 8:50 p.m.

Matt Kristoffersen | matthew.kristofferesen@yale.edu