Yale Athletics reverts to Phase 0 after COVID-19 cluster emerges
Six members of the Yale men’s ice hockey team tested positive for the coronavirus almost a week after the Bulldogs officially began Phase II.
After over three weeks of limited in-person athletic activity in Phases I and II, Yale Athletics is reverting to Phase 0 until at least Oct. 21 after six members of the Yale men’s hockey team tested positive for COVID-19.
Hockey captain Phil Kemp ’21 confirmed the existence of the cluster in an interview with the News. Word spread quickly Tuesday night as several varsity teams learned about the regression to Phase 0 in team Zoom meetings and emails from coaches.
“As I am sure you’ve heard, a cluster of positive cases has been identified, and for the safety of all of you and the larger Yale community, we are shutting down all varsity athletic activities until at least next Wednesday,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country David Shoehalter wrote in an email to his program obtained by the News. “Our facilities will all be off-limits, and we will not be permitted to have any organized team activities.”
Stephanie Spangler, Yale’s COVID-19 coordinator, informed the full student body of the outbreak in an email late Tuesday night. In the message, Spangler confirmed that six individuals on the same athletic team tested positive for COVID-19 during routine biweekly testing conducted within the previous 24 hours.
The announcement comes after all teams had moved into Phase II of the Ivy League’s three-phase plan for the resumption of athletic activities on Oct. 7. Yale began Phase I on Sept. 21.
In his email, Shoehalter added that after the conclusion of Phase 0, Yale will need to proceed again through Phase I before returning to Phase II, which would likely be a shorter period of time than the initial 16-day window between Phase I and Phase II. Shoehalter also reminded his student-athletes to speak honestly in the event they are contacted by campus contact tracers, emphasizing there would be no negative repercussions for doing so.
It remains unclear how the cluster began, but Kemp noted that there were more than 10 people present during a transition period at Monday’s practice at Ingalls Rink. Yale limits group gatherings to 10 people without prior approval.
Still, Kemp underscored that team members have been following University guidelines and remain confident in Yale’s ability to control the spread of the virus.
“We understand [the decision to return to Phase 0] completely,” Kemp said. “A lot of us volunteered to go into the isolation pods right away to get the virus under control.”
During Phase 0, no in-person physical athletic activities are allowed, but teams can meet virtually with coaches.
“Right now we can’t do anything,” Yale football quarterback Devyn Suggs ’24 told the News. “Can’t lift, can’t practice, so we are back to doing stuff on our own –– bodyweight workouts by ourselves. We can’t go to the gym or to practice or anything like that, so we have to basically go back to Phase 0 and then hopefully go back to Phase 1 next week.”
When asked for comment, university officials referred the News to Spangler’s email.
In her email, Spangler elaborated on additional cautionary measures being taken by the University to contain this outbreak. Among these, all members of the men’s hockey team including staff have been asked to quarantine and participate in the testing program, regardless of whether they were identified as close contact risks by the contact tracing program. Additionally, in-person intramural sport activities have also been canceled at least until next week.
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Update, October 14, 12:00 a.m.: This article has been updated to include information in the campus-wide email sent by University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler at 11:01 p.m.
Update, October 14, 12:51 a.m.: This article has been updated to reflect comments given to to the News from university officials.