Although students who remain in New Haven while campus is closed will still have access to COVID-19 testing, for the students who plan to go home for the recess between semesters, questions about the accessibility and affordability of testing in their home communities still remain.
Nov. 21 marks the last day of the in-residence period of the semester for undergraduates. In an email to the Yale community, Dr. Madeline Wilson, chief quality officer of Yale Health and chair of Yale’s COVID Testing and Tracing chief quality officer at Yale Health and chair of Yale’s COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Committee updated the students and faculty about access to COVID-19 testing during the holidays and recess period. While the students who remain on campus or in New Haven will still be able to access testing, three students who plan to go home spoke to the News and expressed doubt about the feasibility of accessing testing back home.
“As we head into the Thanksgiving break and reduced University operations over December and January, we can reassure everyone that we will continue to provide access to COVID-19 testing for those remaining in the New Haven area,” Wilson wrote in her email.
While there will be some changes in testing facility hours in the coming weeks — with testing capacity extended this week to accommodate testing prior to Thanksgiving break and all asymptomatic test sites closed beginning at noon on Nov. 25 through Thanksgiving Day — testing will largely remain the same. Students remaining in New Haven will be able to schedule tests through the COVID testing portal.
During the recess, students living on Old Campus will receive their COVID tests at Dwight Hall. All students who received special permission to remain on campus between semesters will live on Old Campus, except for first-year counselors, who were offered a special COVID-19 accommodation because their leadership roles required them to live in the colleges. Students living off campus will be directed to the voluntary testing locations. Currently, those locations include the Lanman Center and 150 York Street, and starting Nov. 18, a new testing site will also open at 60 Sachem Street.
During the in-residence portion of the fall semester, students enrolled in residence received their COVID testing at sites within their residential colleges.
Wilson wrote that on- and off-campus undergraduate students should remain on their testing schedule until their departure from campus and follow public health guidance to reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 home with them. All members of the Yale community, undergraduates included, are encouraged to receive a negative test within 72 hours prior to Thanksgiving travel.
“I am grateful that students will be able to continue receiving testing at voluntary testing locations in New Haven, and hope students will choose to do so,” Yale College Council President Aliesa Bahri ’22 told the News.
While the students who petitioned for exceptional permission to remain on campus during the holidays and those living off campus may remain in New Haven, the majority of students will be home for the holiday recess. The question of how to access testing outside of New Haven remains for many students.
“As for how students will access testing while they are at home, that is something that we are exploring but there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution,” Wilson wrote in an email to the News.
Wilson elaborated that students covered under the Yale Health plan who seek testing in their home communities may submit bills for reimbursement, but students will likely have to “research the testing landscape for where they live.”
Wilson noted that she may share more information as Yale staffers “research options further.”
Gabi Wallk ’23 is currently on a leave of absence and located in New Haven. She plans to go home to Chicago for the holidays. Although Wallk is not enrolled, she has been taking advantage of the free, voluntary testing program offered to undergraduate students that are enrolled remotely or on a leave of absence and living in New Haven County.
While Wallk noted that “it would be nice” to have more frequent and easily accessible testing available at home, she noted that the environment at home feels safer than on campus, so she only plans to get tested when she gets off the plane in Chicago.
“On the one hand, [Yale’s frequent testing of students] is a nice assurance to know you don’t have COVID, but on the other hand my parents are much safer and stricter when it comes to COVID so I think I’ll mostly feel relieved to be in a safer environment,” Wallk wrote. “I don’t think testing is very accessible [at home in Chicago] but I haven’t looked into it.”
Sude Yenilmez ’24 is currently enrolled in residence, and after she departs campus, will go home to Istanbul, Turkey.
She plans to get tested once she lands in Turkey; however, after that, unless she exhibits symptoms, she does not think she will be able to get tested. And because she and her friends back home will likely not be able to access testing frequently, she fears she will not be able to see her friends often because she won’t “know whether they are positive and asymptomatic.”
“In Turkey, testing is affordable,” Yenilmez wrote. “But to get tested, one needs to go to a hospital where he [or] she may be exposed to COVID-19. In addition, a lot of hospitals refuse to do tests unless the patient shows symptoms. The government pretends to have a low number of cases and thus, refrains from testing people. I certainly felt very safe at Yale knowing that everyone around me [was] tested and had negative test results.”
Similarly, this semester, William Garcia ’24 is enrolled in residence. However, when he departs campus at the end of the week, he will go home to Miami, Florida.
Garcia commented that being tested twice weekly at Yale has made him feel very secure given the public health crisis. However, when he goes home he will not be tested as frequently and he foresees having “constant anxiety” about whether or not he is sick and could potentially be spreading COVID-19 to his family.
“It is a concern to me that I’ve gotten accustomed to being tested twice a week and now when I go home I will not have that same luxury,” Garcia said. “While COVID testing is relatively affordable in Miami, it is very inaccessible, as you have to make appointments at a local pharmacy months in advance.”
According to the Yale COVID-19 dashboard, as of Nov. 17, the University tested 8,118 individuals in the last week, conducting a total of 12,138 tests.
Julia Bialek | firstname.lastname@example.org