Looking Forward to the Spring Semester

January 25, 2021

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

A belated happy new year! I look forward to the start of the spring semester and write to affirm the plans Provost Scott Strobel and I first shared with you last October. As we announced, we will provide a residential college education for a portion of undergraduates, offer graduate and professional school students the option to study on campus, and sustain research activities and other university operations.

Our collective efforts last semester demonstrated that our strategy to reduce density on campus, conduct asymptomatic testing, and implement other health policies can greatly lower the risk of a serious outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. We will build on what we learned from the fall to sustain Yale’s mission this semester as safely as possible.

I provide more information below. Other university leaders will be sending you additional details as the spring semester gets under way.

Building on what we learned from the fall semester

Here are key actions we can take to promote the health and well-being of those on our campus and of our neighbors:

  • Avoid social gatherings of more than ten people, refrain from in-person restaurant dining, and maintain physical distancing. These precautions limited the spread of the virus on campus last semester.
  • Be forthcoming with contact tracers to help contain the emergence of small clusters of the virus on campus. We saw in the fall how effective the contact tracing program can be in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 when it receives truthful and detailed information.
  • Follow Yale’s asymptomatic and symptomatic testing and quarantine protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in New Haven. Students, faculty, and staff were meticulous in following the university’s testing strategies and quarantine protocols in the fall.  We must do the same this semester.
  • Wear face coverings to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This simple act has played a major role in sharply reducing the incidence of the disease in our community.
  • Limit interstate and international travel unless it is absolutely necessary. During the fall term, cases of COVID-19 were introduced to our community as a direct result of interstate or international travel. Traveling significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 exposure, so we must avoid it whenever possible.
  • Continue to follow health precautions even if you have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated. Public health experts are not yet certain that previous COVID-19 infection or vaccination offers complete protection from transmitting the virus.

As was the case in the fall, students are required to sign the Yale Community Compact, and faculty and staff must adhere to the new Statement of Expectations. Please take a moment to review carefully Yale health guidelines as well. As states across the nation—including Connecticut—contend with high levels of infection and with the emergence of a more infectious strain of COVID-19, we must take more care than ever in preventing the spread of the virus.

Distributing COVID-19 vaccines

Public health experts estimate that it could be months before there will be enough vaccines to immunize the vast majority of people. Therefore, the State of Connecticut is requiring that we take a phased approach to vaccinations, beginning by vaccinating certain groups, such as healthcare personnel and those older than a specified age.

Our colleagues from Yale Health and the Office of Facilities have converted the Lanman Center at Payne Whitney Gymnasium into a vaccination center for the Yale community. When you are eligible to be vaccinated, you will receive an email invitation from MyChart. I urge you to accept that invitation, schedule an appointment, and get vaccinated. Learn about your eligibility and options, including other ways to get vaccinated, by visiting the Yale COVID-19 Vaccine Program website.

Remember that although the vaccines are extremely effective in preventing illness, they may not control the transmission of the virus until a substantial portion of the broader community is inoculated. Thus, we must continue to follow the usual health guidelines even after we are vaccinated. Doing so protects ourselves and our friends, colleagues, students, and neighbors.

Continuing to monitor public health conditions

Other university leaders and I will continue to monitor the spread of the virus, the emergence of new federal and state regulations, and scientific and medical developments. As always, we will post any updates at the university’s COVID-19 website, and I urge you to read carefully the weekly message from Dr. Stephanie Spangler, Yale’s COVID-19 coordinator.

I approach the spring semester with gratitude for the ways faculty, students, and staff have realized Yale’s mission while safeguarding one another’s health. So far in this pandemic, members of the Yale community contributed to the development of COVID-19 tests and vaccines, brought scholarship and data to the dialogue on national and state policies, addressed health disparities, found new ways to teach and learn, and served our friends and neighbors who are in need. We must carry on this work in the spring term while fulfilling our responsibility to the public’s health.

Your demonstrated resilience and commitment to the commonweal provides confidence for the coming months. Together we will ensure that Yale remains a place of optimism and ingenuity, where students, faculty, and staff make essential contributions to knowledge, innovation, and quality of life.

With best wishes for a happy and healthy new semester,

Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology