Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

On March 10, 2020, Yale students were asked not to return from spring break and were informed that classes would be held remotely until early April. Four days after this notice, the first three emerging COVID-19 cases were reported on Yale’s campus. 

The first two years of the class of 2024’s time at Yale were defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. From remote Bulldog Days to only spending one semester on campus during their first year, the students in the class of 2024 had an unusual college experience, as almost all in-person activities were halted. Starting their sophomore fall, most students who planned to return to campus were required to get vaccinated. In their junior year, starting in the fall of 2022, Yale relaxed many restrictions, with campus again resembling normalcy. 

While enrolled students were acclimating to the new reality of a remote Yale in the spring 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic reached the University, the admitted class of 2024 had to connect remotely with Yale as they concluded their college admissions process. 

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions replaced Bulldog Days, the three days of on-campus programming for admitted students held each April, with “30 Bulldog Days of April.” The virtual event that started on April 1, 2020, allowed the incoming class to experience Yale through online videos and connect with each other via chat and video in a new online Admitted Students Network. 

“Obviously I was disappointed because there’s something different from going to a campus in person versus seeing it online,” Cass Ng ’24 told the News in 2020. “But I do appreciate the effort, they’re going to try to make this as immersive and comprehensive as possible.”

The class of 2024 had an atypical first-year experience, as they only had one in-person semester in the fall and studied remotely in the spring. First-year students who would have normally been on Old Campus lived in their respective colleges instead. During their sophomore year, however, students in the class of 2024 lived on Old Campus. 

Even for students who were allowed on campus, classes were primarily conducted remotely through a new “residential/remote model.” This model prompted around a fifth of all Yale College students to choose not to enroll for the 2020 fall semester. 

That year, 341 students admitted to the class of 2024 decided to take gap years, amounting to a 21-percent gap-year rate, compared to the three to four percent rate in a typical in-person year, making the class of 2024 the smallest class to enter Yale in recent years. However, 568 students from the original class of 2023 who took a leave of absence during COVID-19 will graduate with the class of 2024, making up for the decrease. 

Upon arrival in their first year, students followed COVID-19 testing procedures and were required to quarantine in a three-phase process that lasted a month. The University adopted strict social distancing measures, including limiting social gatherings to 10 people. Sports were also canceled for the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year. 

In April 2021, students became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. For the 2021-22 school year, students who planned to return to campus in the fall were required to receive the vaccination. 

After 18 months of remote instruction, students returned for in-person classes in the fall 2021 semester of 2021 was described as “surreal” by many. Natasha Ravinand ’24 then told the News that she felt “really grateful” to return to Yale for in-person classes after her gap year and was excited to see her friends and professors again. 

The University emphasized that public health was the foremost priority of the community. Students tested for COVID-19 weekly and were required to move out of their dorms and into isolation housing at either McClellan Hall or Arnold Hall if they tested positive. 

In late 2021, the Omicron variant reached the campus. In December, the University experienced the most COVID-19 positive reports in a single day, and with an increase in isolation housing move-ins, the University announced that all remaining finals for the semester would be moved online and students were encouraged to leave campus early. 

The University delayed the start of the spring 2022 semester by one week and compensated for the lost instruction by reducing spring break by one week. 

The Omicron wave affected aspects of campus life in the spring 2022 semester. Yale’s sorority rush turned virtual and arts performances abided by strict audience policies. However, the College resumed in-person dining and classes. 

As the fall 2022 semester rolled around, the University relaxed some pandemic-driven policies. Students were no longer required to complete regular asymptomatic tests and masking was no longer required outside of classes. 

By September 2022, the university lifted mask mandates in classrooms, and classes returned to a pre-pandemic atmosphere. By 2023, many Yale facilities returned to normal operations.

However, experts at Yale continue to emphasize that COVID-19 is still spreading and something to be cautious of. The country continues to experience the “Tripledemic” every fall and winter, referring to the three illnesses — respiratory syncytial virus, the flu and COVID-19 — that spike seasonally.

Experts also said that the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions was likely exacerbating the flu season in 2023 compared to previous years. Therefore, testing and “tried and true” strategies for preventing illness remain important measures. 

In early 2024, the University further relaxed its COVID-19 policies. In February, Yale Health ended the Campus COVID Resource Line, a phone line for information on COVID-19. Additionally, positive COVID-19 cases are no longer reported to the University. Students who suspect they have COVID-19 are still recommended to isolate, and rapid antigen tests are still available at some campus locations, including residential colleges. 

The class of 2024, who graduated high school in 2020 largely without traditional celebrations, will have the third Commencement since the pandemic ​​to allow guests to attend. 

The first undergraduate COVID-19 case was reported on Aug. 26, 2020.

Asuka Koda covers the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale School of Public Health. From New York City, she is a first-year in Davenport majoring in Mathematics and Philosophy.