University relaxes mask and distancing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals
With low rates of COVID-19 transmission at Yale and the surrounding area, the University will get rid of most preventative protocols for fully vaccinated community members.
Regina Sung, Staff Photographer
Starting July 6, fully vaccinated members of the Yale community will no longer have to comply with the masking, testing and physical distancing requirements instituted last year.
University Provost Scott Strobel and Senior Vice President of Operations Jack Callahan announced the changes in a Tuesday email to the Yale community. Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to participate in asymptomatic testing, complete a daily health check, maintain six feet of distance or mask in most situations. People who have not been vaccinated or who have not submitted vaccine documentation must continue with the protocols. Amid national concerns about virus variants, especially the more transmissible Delta variant, University leaders emphasized that the relaxed safety measures come as local case numbers have decreased and may change should the pandemic worsen again. The University has seen one positive test result in the last week, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. The state also has a positivity rate of less than 1 percent.
“We know that being fully vaccinated is highly effective for both preventing COVID and preventing the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID,” Richard Martinello, medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital, wrote in an email to the News. “As the proportion of the Yale community fully vaccinated continues to grow and as we are currently seeing a low prevalence of transmission of COVID in the community, this provides us with an opportunity to take a step back from other measures to prevent transmission of the virus.”
In accordance with state guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals must still wear a mask on public transportation — including Yale shuttles — in health care facilities and in some large gatherings, the email added.
The Public Health Committee, which advises University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler, discussed the changes before University leaders made the decision. The committee monitors the state of the pandemic locally and beyond — including current findings relating to vaccines, the virus and its variants, as well as guidance from national and international public health organizations and experts, Spangler wrote in an email to the News.
In a Friday email to the Yale community, Spangler addressed concerns about the Delta variant’s spread in the United States and around the world. She explained the University’s decision not to require fully vaccinated people to wear masks, emphasizing that vaccination is the most effective measure to reduce the spread of the Delta variant and prevent new variants from emerging.
Spangler explained that the World Health Organization guidance, which recommends that fully vaccinated people continue to wear a mask and social distance in public areas, relies on global infection and vaccination rates, while CDC guidance allows fully vaccinated individuals to forego masks in most public settings.
Given the low levels of transmission and high levels of vaccination in the local community, the University’s new rules are aligned with WHO and CDC guidance, Spangler stated.
Spangler and Martinello added that Yale is prepared to ramp up safety measures should the state of the pandemic worsen.
“The university adjusts its health and safety measures — and will do so for the fall — in response to any changes in pandemic conditions and in accordance with the recommendations of the Public Health Committee,” Spangler wrote.
Yale is preparing for in-person classes and a full residential program for the coming year, contingent on widespread vaccination in the community. The University has also required all faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1, though exemptions will be made for religious or medical reasons.
Spangler said the University does not yet have data to share on its vaccination program and exemption process. Martinello was unsure as to the exact number of students, faculty and staff who have requested an exemption, but said it was a “very small” proportion of the community.
Martinello added that the University is awaiting additional state and CDC guidance on whether a booster or additional vaccination will be necessary.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, 524 students, faculty and staff tested positive for COVID-19.