As the start of the spring semester approaches, Yale College has released its final plans for student move-in, testing and quarantine.
In an email sent on Thursday evening to all students enrolled in residence this spring, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd provided information and instructions regarding student move-in and quarantine. Like last semester, students on campus will have to reserve a move-in date, take both a pre-arrival and an arrival viral test and quarantine for an extended period of time. However, while the fall 2020 arrival quarantine only mandated that students quarantine in their residential colleges for 14 days after arriving on campus, the spring term will feature a month-long quarantine period that will be broken into three phases — including the addition of a new phase towards the end that restricts students to campus — and end on March 1.
“The policies are of course not meant to be punitive; they are meant to reduce the risk of viral spread in the community at a time of sharply higher infection rates across the country as well as here in New Haven,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun wrote in an email to the News.
For the upcoming semester, students living on campus will have to reserve a move-in time for Jan. 28 or Jan. 29, although some students may receive special permission to move in later. According to an email sent to students by Chief of Student Health Christine Chen on Jan. 12, prior to moving in, on-campus students will have to take a pre-arrival viral test that will be mailed to their current residence by Quest Diagnostics. Students are also required to take a viral test upon arrival to campus.
However, after they arrive at Yale, all students living on campus — regardless of prior viral test results, vaccination status or home location — must abide by an arrival quarantine that will be rolled out in phases, beginning the day a student arrives on campus and ending on March 1.
In the first phase, students are required to stay in their suites until they receive a negative test result from the COVID test they took upon arrival, which the email from Boyd estimates will take 24 to 36 hours.
The second phase of quarantine will start after a student receives their negative test result and end at 6:59 a.m. on Feb. 15. During this phase, students will be permitted to leave their suite, but they will be required to stay within their residential colleges, or other campus residence, and the corresponding courtyard. The email cites that permission to leave the college will be granted for COVID-19 testing, medical reasons or emergencies.
Chun explained that the residential college quarantine for the spring semester will be of similar length to the quarantine last semester, with the only difference being that the quarantine will end at the same time for all students, regardless of when they moved into their dorm for the semester. In the fall 2020 term, students were required to quarantine for 14 days from the day of arrival of each individual student. However, for the spring semester, students moving in on the earliest possible date for the spring semester — Jan. 28 — will be quarantined in their residential colleges for 19 days.
However, the biggest change in quarantine protocol from last semester is the addition of a third phase of quarantine. During the last phase — which will last from 7 a.m. on Feb. 15 until 7 a.m. on March 1 — students will be permitted to leave their residential college but must remain on campus. According to Boyd’s email, in this final phase, students should minimize their interactions with the city of New Haven and surrounding community, including “avoiding restaurants, coffee shops, stores or any other spaces that are not campus buildings.”
“This additional guideline comes from the state of Connecticut and at a time when viral cases are significantly higher than they were in the fall, both nationally and locally, and as the significantly more contagious variant has been detected in Connecticut,” Chun said of the extra third phase of quarantine added on this semester. “The extra time is needed to establish low levels of transmission within the student community.”
Chun explained that while students in extraordinary circumstances — such as a family death or a comparable emergency — will be able to request permission to leave campus during the third phase of arrival quarantine, “the restrictions apply equally to all undergraduate students, even if they have activities off campus.”
According to Boyd’s email, juniors and seniors living off campus will be expected to follow similar testing and quarantine requirements. During the first and second phases of the campus quarantine period, off-campus juniors and seniors will not have access to campus apart from scheduled COVID-19 testing. During the third phase of quarantine, all students enrolled in residence will have access to campus buildings, but off-campus students are only permitted to enter their residential colleges for COVID-19 testing.
While students living off campus are not required to abide by the third phase of quarantine that asks on-campus students minimize interaction with New Haven, Boyd encouraged off-campus students to follow similar protocols “from the date [they] arrive until March 1, insofar as [they] are able to.”
As with last semester, Chun told the News that students will be expected to abide by the protocols “without everyday monitoring and with the understanding that they are meant to limit the risk of viral spread.” However, according to Chun, violations will be subject to review and potential discipline by the Compact Review Committee — before which more than 150 students were brought last semester.
These new quarantine measures have been met with scrutiny from students living on campus this semester. Ryan Zhou ’23 understands the necessity of the quarantine protocols themselves but is most frustrated that the specific details of the quarantine were not communicated with the student body until students were “pretty much hopelessly committed to living on campus.”
Another student who will be living on campus next semester, Liam Curtis ’23, expressed dissatisfaction with the quarantine protocols.
“I feel super lucky to go back to campus during such a grim period in our country, but it’s tough to anticipate such an unfamiliarly restricted experience,” Curtis said of the student experience during the new quarantine protocols.
Despite feeling excited about being able to return to campus after the sophomore class was not invited back in the fall 2020 semester, Curtis also expressed confusion over why the arrival quarantine exceeds the CDC’s most recent guidelines.
However, according to Chun, the protocols are in keeping with public health guidance.
“For such a dense residential community, this unchanged period of quarantine is what public health officials from the state and Yale’s Public Health Advisory Committee have called for, even in light of the CDC’s revised recommendations,” Chun wrote in an email to the News.
Classes for the spring semester are scheduled to begin on Feb. 1.
Julia Bialek | email@example.com