Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer

As of Monday, Aug. 30, students hoping to run, lift or swim at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium no longer need to book their exercise sessions in advance — as long as they are vaccinated and masked.

Last spring, students had to sign up for a time slot to exercise in the cardio or strength sections of the Israel Fitness Center and to swim laps in the third-floor pool. But with nearly all of Yale’s student population fully vaccinated — 98 percent, according to the University’s published data as of Tuesday evening — the gym’s reservation system is no longer in effect. Many of the other facilities in the 14-story space, such as the basketball courts at the Lanman Center, are reopening after being closed for 18 months.

According to restrictions listed on the gym’s website, the facility will only be open to fully vaccinated Yale students, faculty and staff. Masks are still required unless individuals are actively swimming, drinking or showering.

“As Yale faculty and staff reactivate their [Payne Whitney] memberships, we will be verifying vaccinations records on-site to ensure they are fully vaccinated,” Ryan Hagen, associate athletic director for Payne Whitney Gymnasium and campus recreation, wrote in an email to the News.

By Sept. 7, all recreation spaces — including the Israel Fitness Center, Lanman Center, third-floor pool and fifth-, sixth- and eighth-floor activity spaces and studios — will be open. Several of these spaces were open this summer on a reservation-based system and remain open now. However, the Payne Whitney website specifies that the Brady Squash Center will remain closed until at least Oct. 1. While towel service will be suspended this fall, locker rooms and locker rentals will be available starting on Sept. 7.

Because vaccination is required for entry, everyone can participate in all activities, including contact games like basketball scrimmages. During much of the pandemic, the multipurpose Lanman Center was used as a field hospital and vaccine clinic. Now, the space is back to housing hoops.

Hagen, who joined Yale Athletics this past July after working at the University of New Haven since 2013, said his department’s challenge continues to be “providing wellness opportunities for our community while placing public health at the forefront of decision making.” Anthony Diaz, who was previously the senior associate athletic director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium administration and physical education, retired in August.

Hagen said that last spring, reservations for the pool and strength training typically hit capacity, while cardio reservations were typically only about 60 percent full. Students can easily run outdoors, he noted, while swimming and strength training require access to specialized equipment. With only 15 students allowed in each space per hour, gym reservations often had to be made several days in advance.

“It was tough [in the spring] to get an appointment and inconvenient to have scheduled one so far out,” Rachel Blatt ’23 told the News.

For the first time since the pandemic began, residential college gyms are also allowed to reopen this semester. According to Yale Environmental Health and Safety, both vaccinated and unvaccinated students can work out in their residential colleges, but only vaccinated students can play contact activities. Ninety-eight percent of undergraduate students are vaccinated. 

At the residential college gyms, students are allowed to exercise without a face covering if they are alone in the facility, but Yale’s rules specify that masks must be worn if another person is in the gym. When there are multiple people there, students must maintain a 6-foot distance. With more exercise options on campus, Yale students are taking advantage of some renewed flexibility.

“I will definitely work out more at my residential college gym because it’s closer and more convenient than walking to Payne Whitney,” Blatt, who is in Silliman College, said.

For more information and updates, visit Yale’s Sports and Recreation website and Instagram.

MELANIE HELLER