Yale Daily News

In mid-January, Yale announced a monthlong arrival quarantine consisting of three distinct phases for undergraduates enrolled in residence as a means of containing COVID-19 spread as students came back to campus for the spring semester.

Currently, campus is in the last phase of its three-stage arrival quarantine, which is expected to end on March 1. During this phase, students are permitted to leave their residential colleges but are asked to stay on campus and minimize their interaction with the city of New Haven. 

The two prior phases — one where students were confined to their rooms and one where students could not leave their residential colleges — further limited student movement. The quarantine measures put in place this semester were more stringent than the measures implemented in fall 2020, as they included a longer residential college quarantine period and the new third phase of quarantine.

But despite the strict quarantine measures, case counts among undergraduates are still higher than the corresponding time period last year. Seven undergraduates tested positive in the last week, compared to zero cases from Sept. 15 to Sept. 22, the corresponding week from last semester, according to data from the University’s COVID-19 dashboard — which on Tuesday began distinguishing between students living on and off campus for the first time this semester. Further, from Jan. 8 to Feb. 21, there have been 58 cases among undergraduates, compared to 100 between Aug. 1 and Dec. 1.

“One reason that there may be more COVID-19 infections on campus at the beginning of the spring semester is that COVID-19 infection rates in New Haven and the rest of the state and country are higher than they were at the beginning of the fall semester,” University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler wrote to the News. “If the virus is more prevalent, it is more likely that you will encounter someone who has COVID-19.”

According to an email sent by Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun to the undergraduate community on Feb. 18, while 49 undergraduate students had to isolate due to COVID-19 by the end of the second phase of the arrival quarantine, only seven had to do so “at the same point in the fall” semester.

Last semester, according to COVID-19 dashboard data, student cases did not total 49 until eight weeks into the semester.

“Fortunately, we are not seeing major outbreaks,” Chun told the News on Tuesday. “There still are cases popping up here and there, but they are small in number and they are not producing outbreaks. I think that is a sign that firstly, quarantines do work. They help bring infection curves down. Continued observance of public health restrictions will help keep them down. But it is also a sign for me to thank the students for cooperating with public health restrictions — mask wearing, limiting gatherings and so on. It’s going okay so far.”

The University uses its dashboard to communicate the state of the pandemic on campus — including daily testing data, the number of positive cases and the COVID-19 alert level.

Last semester, the dashboard distinguished between undergraduate students who lived on campus and undergraduate students who lived off campus, allowing community members to gauge whether on- or off-campus students had higher rates of viral spread.

This semester, as of early Tuesday afternoon, that distinction had not been featured on the dashboard, but a note on the web page read that “undergraduate residence status is being updated as students return to campus; future updates will distinguish results for undergraduates living on or off campus based on residence when the test was performed.” 

Madeline Wilson, chair of the Yale COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Committee, confirmed to the News on Monday that the changes to the dashboard that distinguish between on-campus and off-campus students should be completed later this week. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the dashboard has been updated to reflect the distinctions. 

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu

Julia Bialek currently serves as a public editor for the Yale Daily News. Previously, she covered the student policy & affairs beat as a reporter on the university desk. Originally from Chappaqua, New York, Julia is a junior in Saybrook College studying political science and history.