“Responding to a cluster of COVID-19 cases” was the subject line of the email students received at 11:01 p.m. from the University’s COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler. Upon reading it, my initial response, apart from concerns over the health and well-being of the infected students, was not shock or surprise, but dismay and perturbation. Yale knew the risks, chose to ignore them and put your health and safety in danger.
On Oct. 9, despite an almost 50 percent increase in the total number of COVID-19 cases in one week, Yale decided to relax its COVID-19 alert level to green. While in and of itself this may not be responsible for the recent spike since many previous restrictions remain in place, the virtue signaling of such a move may have caused students to lower their guards and pay less attention to the necessity of physical distancing.
Policies that seem to prioritize athletic performance over student wellbeing have not gone unnoticed. The News’ coverage of the lightweight crew team practicing outside, without masks — though physically distanced in theory — and with more than 10 people, begs the question: when there isn’t a camera, are these bare-minimum and potentially reckless standards even being observed?
Moreover, by permitting facilities such as the Payne Whitney Gymnasium to open, even if precautions such as limiting numbers and screening for symptoms are observed, the increased risk of dangerously exposing students to COVID-19 cannot be entirely mitigated. In particular, there is no clear policy pertaining to off-campus and remote students with regards to gym use since we do not face the same testing requirements. Although I am enrolled remotely this semester, I was able to make a reservation to go swimming without a mask. The reliance on symptoms as a way to mark whether or not the virus might be spread by an individual is potentially erroneous as it fails to take into account not only the asymptomatic cases, but also the fact that individuals can transmit the virus two to three days before experiencing any symptoms.
Even a basic restriction on group sizes was not upheld as there were more than 10 people present during a transition period at Monday’s practice at Ingalls Rink. In the aftermath of the men’s hockey cluster, Yale’s response seems to be perfunctory at best, with only a guaranteed week’s delay of high-risk activities like intramural sports, despite the fact that it can take up to 14 days for someone who has been exposed to the virus to test positive or show symptoms.
Even research from the University that recommends testing every two days, rather than twice a week, has not been met. When Yale agreed to house students on campus, it implicitly agreed to keep students safe; however, when research from the University is not followed and compliance with regulations goes unchecked, Yale is not following through on that promise.
Moreover, Yale has not met its promise as a university in New Haven to keep the residents of the city safe. With over 50 University students and affiliates having tested positive for the virus since August, the number of New Haveners having tested positive as a result of these cases is unclear. Considering the risk of superspreading in vulnerable populations, even one community case could have a considerable impact — Yale cannot be certain that its reckless behavior is not responsible for at least one of the 4,542 deaths in Connecticut. Is Yale prepared for the very real possibility of its lackluster policies leading to the death of a student, faculty or staff member, or new haven resident?
Cases will continue to rise. This cluster of six cases directly linked to the hockey cluster has already grown to over 18. The University will continue to enact policies to protect its endowment and reputation, rather than to protect the health of its students. Yale does not care about your health; they may emphatically swear they do but the data tells the real truth.
CAROLINE BEIT is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.