Zoe Berg

Yale is no longer sending students living in doubles to isolation housing when they test positive for COVID-19 after isolation housing has steadily filled up.

Yale College Health and Safety Leader Julie Sweigard wrote in an email to undergraduates last week that students who live in doubles and test positive for COVID-19 are now supposed to isolate in their rooms. Their roommates have the option to remain in their current room or relocate to temporary housing if they test negative. If the roommate tests positive, they will isolate in their current room as well. 

“I think it’s a pretty big inconvenience to the roommate, who doesn’t even have COVID,” Alexandra Martinez-Garcia ’26, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, wrote to the News. “I think Yale should’ve stuck with their policy of moving students with COVID to temporary housing, because that lowers the risk of exposure for suitemates, for other people in the same dorm building, and for people in the dining hall.”

For the first week of the school year, those in doubles who tested positive were isolated in Arnold Hall, with students living in singles isolating in their room. However, the policy was scrapped mere days into the school year as isolation housing began to fill up.

Sweigard wrote to the News that Arnold Hall will now be used for students whose roommates test positive and who opt for temporary housing. McClellan Hall, which was used for isolation housing last school year, is being used for standard student housing this year.

In her email announcing the policy change, Sweigard wrote that the roommate of the student who tests positive will take a rapid test immediately after their roommate tests positive and take two additional PCR tests over the course of the next five days, following the protocol for close contacts. Like students in singles isolating, students in doubles who test positive will pick up their meals at the dining hall and continue using their bathroom. 

“I think [the new policy is] not great because the roommate of the person who got COVID will still be living with other negative people and using the same bathroom and so on,” Emily Neumeyer ’26 told the News, “And it really sucks for the roommate.”

Sweigard said the change in policy was enacted in order to free up room in isolation housing. Per information distributed to COVID-19-positive students last week, isolation housing reached capacity at the time that the new policy was announced. The “flipped” system now has decreased the number of students living in Arnold Hall —  many students are choosing not to live in temporary housing, Sweigard said. 

“This arrangement is more flexible because it gives those roommates options, and in fact many of them have opted not to relocate to Arnold, choosing instead to stay in the suite, or with friends, until they can return to their shared bedrooms,” Sweigard wrote to the News. 

Should too many people opt to move into Arnold Hall to escape their COVID-positive roommates, Sweigard said they will “reevaluate” and “consider other options.” She added that the number of students with COVID-19 is “very low.”

According to Yale’s COVID-19 dashboard, 184 undergraduates tested positive during the week ending Sept. 9. Yale’s testing program is currently voluntary.

Even prior to Sweigard’s announcement, isolation housing shortages led the University to inform some students living in doubles to isolate in place. 

Catalina Mahe ’26, who lives in a double with Martinez-Garcia, wrote to the News that after her roommate tested positive on Sept. 5, her roommate was told to stay in their room. She was told she could find an alternative place to sleep, but isolation housing was full — Mahe was given the options of staying in the common room, moving in temporarily with a friend or requesting outside housing from the University. 

However, Mahe said the last option was “a bit unclear,” because she was not sure how Yale would provide housing. Mahe added that she is confused about the University’s lack of isolation housing. 

“I think Yale underestimated the spread of COVID that would inevitably occur as students and faculty returned to campus with loosened mask mandates,” Mahe wrote to the News, “If there was enough housing to accommodate students last year, why is this a problem now?”

Arnold Hall is located at 304 Elm St. 

Siona Jain | siona.jain@yale.edu

Sarah Cook | sarah.cook@yale.edu

Sarah Cook is one of the University editors. She previously covered student policy and affairs, along with President Salovey's cabinet. From Nashville, Tennessee, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.