Running in circles: Frustrated on-campus runners adapt during monthlong arrival quarantine
Some students living on campus are frustrated with the University’s instruction to avoid runs and walks into New Haven as the third phase of arrival quarantine continues. During Phase 2, laps around college courtyards emerged as a creative replacement.
Courtesy of Thomas Nardini
With Yale now in Phase 3 of arrival quarantine, restrictions on off-campus movement are frustrating some on-campus runners, who are persisting with creative solutions to continue training.
During the third phase of arrival quarantine, students can leave their residential colleges but are still expected to remain on campus and “not interact with the city of New Haven.” Last November, when Yale announced new restrictions for on-campus students before Thanksgiving, undergraduates were similarly asked to avoid walks or runs into the city. A message from mid-January offered the same instructions when detailing Phase 3 requirements for this semester.
The Phase 3 restrictions are more lenient than Yale’s policies from Phase 1 and 2 of arrival quarantine, when students were confined within their rooms and their residential colleges, respectively. While students in Phase 3 are now allowed access to spaces in Yale’s campus outside of their residential areas, they are expected not to go off campus and venture into areas including favored running spots such as East Rock and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Runners voiced a spectrum of responses to the running regulations, from understanding to frustration.
One student, former member of Yale’s club running team Daniel Blatt ’21, said he moved off campus after living in Silliman last semester partially due to Yale’s regulations on running.
“It’s definitely a pretty mind-boggling policy,” Blatt said. “With a lot of runners it seemed pretty bizarre that Yale is restricting an activity that is so essential to students’ well-being and that poses such a low COVID risk. There’s definitely a lot of frustration.”
Blatt noted that several members of the club running team have also moved off campus to be able to run outdoors without restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently lists running, walking, or biking as “safer” activities when conducted outdoors.
And varsity track and field athletes, who found ways to train safely within their colleges during the first half of February, are now allowed to train with their teams in Phase I of the Ivy League’s plan for athletic training.
Yale School of Public Health Department Chair of Epidemiology Albert Ko said he was supportive of Yale’s policy, noting that the risk of outdoor transmission is not negligible. He said there have been superspreader events outdoors, citing the 2020 White House COVID-19 outbreak in the Rose Garden as an example. Ko also pointed out that vigorous breathing can increase the risk of transmission through air droplets.
“We really want to do our most not only to protect our University, our students, but also to protect the workers, the staff, the faculty, everybody — people who are working in the dining halls, in the loading docks, in the laboratories,” Ko said. “We should keep a higher bar. We’ve seen how devastating the epidemic is.”
Still, Ko said that he personally believes running is “an important exercise.” He said providing students with the opportunity to run and walk during this period would be important if “it could be done with guard rails [and] done safely.”
In a Tuesday interview with the News, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun noted that Payne Whitney Gymnasium is now open for students to use — students could make reservations for cardio and strength equipment starting Feb. 15. But Chun said that although students can still move around campus, the University is “trying to keep some separation with the town during this phase.”
For Thomas Nardini ’24, a member of the Air Force ROTC program who is currently living in Saybrook College, the disconnect between last semester’s policies — which permitted running off campus after the second and final phase of the fall semester’s arrival quarantine — and this semester’s regulations has been confusing.
“You obviously can have a compromise that you have a mask and you wear it when there’s people around,” Nardini noted. “It seems that there are workarounds besides blanket banning running in New Haven.”
Nardini has complied with the rules, determined to keep running within his college courtyard during the first half of February. On Feb. 13, in 16-degree weather, he ran four miles within Saybrook’s upper and lower courtyard.
Faith Evanson ’24, a student currently residing on Old Campus, said she gave up running because she felt uncomfortable wearing a mask while running. She is instead focusing on body weight exercises as an alternative.
Students who agree with the University’s policies have noted Yale’s impact on the New Haven community as a potential rationale behind the decision. Harry Grindle ’23, a varsity track and field sprinter, agreed with the University’s precautions.
“The policy makes a lot of sense given the current pandemic,” Grindle said. “Yale is currently operating on a very safe system to ensure that all members of the community are keeping safe and keeping New Haven safe. With the size of the Yale campus, we’re very lucky that as runners we still have a lot of space to run around, but we’re still being safe while we do it.”
Grindle, who lives on campus, also continued to run in his residential college during the first half of February.
While Grindle spoke highly of the Davenport community’s camaraderie regarding outdoor workouts within the courtyards, Nardini in Saybrook and others on Old Campus said they were frustrated with the area available to them for running.
“I could see the argument that Yale doesn’t trust its students and thinks that we might say that we’re going to run off campus and go off into town and interact with other people,” said Asher Ellis ’24, a running enthusiast currently residing on Old Campus. “If that’s true, I think that they ought to treat us more as adults and recognize that people need to take responsibility for their actions. In general, they’ve done a good job, but I don’t know whether or not this particular aspect of their quarantine restrictions is evidence-backed, and I don’t know how much people are going to follow it.”
In the months since the fall semester’s final arrival quarantine, new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19 have been detected, including the U.K. variant found in New Haven in January. Community transmission levels also remain higher than they were at the start of the fall semester.
Phase 3 of arrival quarantine, which started Feb. 15, is expected to end on the first day of March.
Sydney Gray and Julia Bialek contributed reporting.
Hamera Shabbir | firstname.lastname@example.org