Fall 2020

July 1, 2020

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

We are writing to report plans for fall 2020. We know you have been waiting patiently for the information provided here, in the attached links, and in communications you will receive from others shortly. These plans adhere to the advice of public health experts, reflect input from Yale’s COVID-19 Contingency Planning Committees, and are in accordance with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s roadmap for reopening Connecticut.

Yale will welcome graduate and professional school students and a portion of the undergraduate population back to campus for the fall semester. Nearly all Yale College courses will be taught remotely, so that all undergraduate students can enroll. Graduate and professional schools will offer different combinations of in-person and remote teaching. We also will continue our reactivation of on-site research and many other university operations with strict health precautions in place. These decisions are possible because of the continued decline in community transmission of COVID-19 in Connecticut, the creation of a university-wide COVID-19 screening program, and the implementation of other health and safety actions.

Now more than ever, the world needs the very best from Yale. We state in our goals for the institution that Yale aspires to be “the research university most committed to teaching and learning” and to “provide an unsurpassed campus learning environment that cultivates innovators, leaders, pioneers, creators, and entrepreneurs in all fields and for all sectors of society.” With great care for everyone’s well-being, we must do all that we can to continue to create knowledge and educate the next generation.

All of us are sacrificing as part of a community dedicated to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. Although the rates of COVID-19 hospitalization and death have declined in Connecticut, this pandemic is not over. The public health crisis continues to demand self-discipline, personal responsibility, prioritizing the common good over individual preferences, a spirit of cooperation, and resilience. The Yale community rises to every challenging time with spirit and optimism, and we know this moment will not be different. 

In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we must substantially limit many activities in the fall. We include some details below, and students, faculty, and staff will receive particulars from deans and other university leaders in the coming days. We are updating the university’s COVID-19 website regularly with information for all members of the community. In addition, we will soon send an invitation to a town hall meeting, at which we can share these plans more fully and address your questions.


Although in-residence education for Yale College students will not look like typical college life in the next academic year, we will create the best possible learning environment in the context of this public health crisis. We must be aware that social distancing, wearing face coverings, and other precautions have reduced COVID-19 spread in Connecticut, but thousands of new cases of the disease are reported weekly across the country. We have a responsibility to continue to do our part to control this pandemic as we resume teaching and learning in the fall.

Some undergraduates will have the option to return to campus

For each semester in 2020-2021, three classes of students will be in residence. We encourage students who cannot return to campus to continue their Yale education remotely. For fall 2020, first-year students, juniors, and seniors will have the option to live in residential colleges and other campus housing. For spring 2021, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can choose to live on campus. This arrangement allows the university to decrease the undergraduate student population living in the colleges to about 60 percent of normal and lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Yale College Dean Marvin Chun will provide additional information about how first-year students and sophomores who enroll for the coming fall and spring semesters will be able to take two courses in Yale Summer Session in 2021 under a special arrangement that waives tuition for two credits. He also will announce guidelines on taking a leave of absence or gap year for those who prefer these options. In addition, the provost announced in May that we will be following a modified academic calendar to allow students to complete in-person educational programs by Thanksgiving break.

Undergraduate courses will mostly be conducted remotely

As has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, our plans are guided by considerations for the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. We will be implementing social distancing measures for all courses. The fall semester will require self-discipline and a focus on the well-being of others, especially those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

For most lectures and seminars—as well as other small-format courses such as writing classes and introductory language classes—the bulk of instruction will be conducted remotely. There will be both synchronous and asynchronous components. Wherever feasible, such courses will have associated in-person supplements. For a small number of classes, such as those involving laboratory or studio work that cannot be conducted remotely, instruction will take place in person, in socially distanced settings.


Most of Yale’s graduate and professional students live off campus, making it possible to welcome back all who can study and conduct research on campus. We recognize that some students cannot return to campus due to travel or health restrictions, so most courses will be taught remotely. Some will be conducted in-person with social distancing requirements in place. Using a mix of online and in-person courses maximizes our options for students to return to campus and for adhering to public health guidelines. The deans of each school will send additional details.

To lower the risk of spreading COVID-19, Yale housing for graduate and professional students will require reduced occupancy, social distancing in common areas, and other restrictions.


As a global research university, we have a responsibility to ask deep questions about ourselves and the world. In May, the provost announced three phases of research reactivation, which brought back a limited number of faculty, staff, and trainees to campus starting June 1. We will begin phase 2 on July 20 and expect to enter phase 3 of research reactivation on August 24. Many research activities will resume, while observing strict health and safety precautions.

We encourage anyone who can do their work from home to continue to do so. Consistent with the guidance from the State of Connecticut, individuals over the age of 65 or who are at higher risk for severe illness should continue to work from home when possible.

As research and teaching activities expand in the coming weeks, managers will inform staff when they are needed on campus. We are committed to supporting our community during this unprecedented public health crisis, and Senior Vice President for Operations Jack Callahan Jr. will provide more specific guidance to staff and managers soon.


The substantial reduction in the rates of COVID-19 hospitalization, death, and infection in Connecticut is directly related to the precautions taken on campus, in the City of New Haven, and in the state for the past several months. To sustain positive public health trends in our region, each of us must continue to maintain at least six feet of distance from others, wear a mask or other face covering when in public places, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, wash our hands frequently, and adhere to other precautions. Each member of the community plays a critical role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. All students, faculty, and staff must commit to following health guidelines and setting an example for their peers.

The requirements below are based on current public health guidance and state rules. Because government officials may need to adjust their policies based on the conditions in our region, these requirements may be updated in the coming months. We will keep you informed of any changes and will update the COVID-19 website continually.

Mandatory training and public health guidelines

All faculty, staff, and students returning to campus will be required to complete online informational programming. All undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students returning to campus must review, sign, and follow the Yale Community Compact, which describes social distancing, viral testing, and health and hygiene guidelines. We also encourage everyone to review regularly the full list of health measures.

The Yale COVID-19 Screening Program

COVID-19 testing for students

To reduce the transmission of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 among students who are coming to New Haven from many different locations, viral testing and other precautions will be required of all students returning to campus.

  • All undergraduate students (whether living on or off campus) will be tested upon arrival to campus and will be required to undergo viral testing weekly throughout the semester.
  • Graduate and professional school students living in university dormitory-style housing will be tested upon arrival to campus and will be required to undergo viral testing weekly throughout the semester.
  • Graduate and professional students living off campus will be required to undergo viral testing once at the start of the fall semester. Additional testing is available if required by academic programs involving direct patient care or if a student has concerns about exposure.
  • All students arriving from abroad or from states with high prevalence of COVID-19 will quarantine for 14 days as required by the State of Connecticut. You can find the current list of states on Connecticut’s travel advisory webpage.
  • Students who live in residential colleges or university dormitory-style housing and receive positive test results will isolate in separate university housing for at least 14 days and until Yale Health informs them it is safe to stop isolation. They will receive medical care and be able to take classes remotely.
  • Students who live off campus and receive positive test results will be asked to isolate at home for at least 14 days and until Yale Health informs them it is safe to return to campus. They will receive medical care and be able to take classes remotely.
  • Close contacts of students who test positive will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. They will be able to take classes remotely. The identity of the individual testing positive will not be shared with contacts.
  • Yale Health will provide medical care as necessary for any student who becomes symptomatic with COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing for faculty, staff, and post-doctoral trainees

All faculty, as well as student-facing staff and post-doctoral trainees, who will be on campus during the fall term will be required to be tested for COVID-19 at the start of the semester. Staff and post-doctoral trainees who do not interact with students are encouraged, but are not required, to be tested for COVID-19 at the start of the semester. Depending on their Yale duties, a limited number of faculty and staff may be required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly. Other asymptomatic individuals who feel they may be at risk for COVID-19 may seek additional testing through Yale’s COVID-19 Screening Program. Faculty, staff, and post-doctoral trainees who test positive will be asked to self-isolate at home for at least 14 days and until a health care provider informs them it is safe to return to campus.

Enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols

Yale’s facilities team will clean and disinfect buildings thoroughly prior to reopening them. The team will disinfect public spaces and commonly touched surfaces throughout the day. Hand sanitizers will be available at numerous locations within all occupied buildings. We are augmenting cleaning protocols to sustain good workplace hygiene.


Travel outside of Connecticut will be discouraged

Although health conditions may be improving in parts of the country and the world, we are still in a pandemic. To do our part in limiting the spread of COVID-19, travel outside of Connecticut is discouraged for faculty and staff for the duration of this public health crisis. Undergraduates may travel only for emergencies or with approval from their residential college deans’ offices for travel that is essential for educational or personal reasons. The university strongly urges graduate and professional students to limit their travel. Everyone should wear masks or other face coverings and practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible while traveling.

Travelers returning from abroad or any state with a high prevalence of COVID-19 must be tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantine for 14 days. Other domestic travelers are encouraged to be tested through the Yale COVID-19 Screening Program upon return.

Events and group gatherings will be limited

If possible, Yale events should be hosted remotely. In-person classes, meetings, and social gatherings in the fall will be limited. Performances will not be held, and meal service will be substantially modified to eliminate crowded dining rooms. The Ivy League will announce a decision about fall athletic competition on July 8. Yale Athletics will provide updates.

We will track carefully state and public health guidance on events and group gatherings, and keep you informed through the COVID-19 website.

Visits to campus will be limited

To reduce the risk of bringing cases of COVID-19 to campus, the university will not allow short-term visitors (anyone staying on campus for less than a full semester) in the fall term. The Visitor Center will remain closed. Deans will be providing instructions on how parents and guardians may bring students to campus.

We will require scholars and students who plan to visit campus for the full fall semester to follow all university policies and public health guidelines. Visiting scholars and students must be tested for COVID-19 upon arriving on campus.

We will review these limits in mid-November if prevailing state rules or public health guidance changes. More information is available at the COVID-19 website.


The pandemic is a dynamic situation—developments in the prevalence of the virus, the availability of treatment, or guidance from government officials may require changes in announced policies. Yale’s Public Health Committee will continue to track infection and hospitalization rates and monitor developments in public health policies and recommended practices.

We are prepared for different scenarios, including a possible resurgence of infections later in the fall that could lead to a change in campus activities. Yale’s modified academic calendar for the fall will help to mitigate the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19, as the last week of instruction, reading period, and final exam period will be conducted remotely. Our colleagues will be in regular touch with you about any relevant changes in public health conditions or guidelines.

We take this opportunity to thank the members of the COVID-19 Contingency Planning Committees for their hard work, thoughtful deliberations, and detailed recommendations. And we thank all of you for sustaining Yale’s core mission over the last several months, whether through teaching and learning online, reactivating research, or maintaining campus operations. Our ability to work together despite great challenges has brought us to this moment in pandemic planning. And, as a community, we can emerge with our core mission and ability to pursue it stronger than ever.

This turbulent period in our nation and around the world demonstrates that there are more questions than answers in solving pressing challenges, in mitigating conflict, and in creating a world where all can thrive. We must approach our work—to create and share knowledge that benefits humanity and to prepare leaders of insight and integrity—with a renewed sense of purpose. There is a lot for us to do, and together, we will bring light and truth to a country and a world that need both.

With best wishes for your health and safety,

Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

Scott Strobel
Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry