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Yale’s COVID-19 Precautions Working, Challenges Ahead

November 20, 2020
by Matt Kristoffersen

With Yale College students approaching the start of a new semester, the Yale School of Public Health is involved in nearly every step of making their return to campus as safe as possible.

But after a long semester of twice-weekly tests, housing restrictions and online classes, students can largely look forward to much of the same in the spring, said Yale Health’s Chief Quality Officer Madeline Wilson.

Wilson and three of the YSPH’s top professors told an online gathering of more than 50 students Monday night about what lay ahead in Yale’s COVID-19 response and what they can do to help quell the spread.

"Even though we have experienced a few outbreaks on campus they’ve been fairly rapidly controlled,” Wilson said. “This semester has gone amazingly well.”

The panel discussion and Q&A session was supported by the Yale College Council, the Yale International Relations Association and Dwight Hall at Yale. It featured YSPH professors Saad Omer, Albert Ko and Howard Forman — some of the key experts in Yale’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The panelists shared their experiences at the start of the outbreak and revealed part of what led to Yale’s decision this summer to restrict undergraduate access to campus. In all, they said, Yale’s actions to track and prevent COVID-19 have gone a long way to keep students and employees safe.

But there’s more to do, said Ko, who leads the YSPH’s department of epidemiology — especially when it comes to the racial inequities that come with the pandemic.

“In order to improve the health of people at Yale we have to invest in the health of the people in the community,” he said.

Yale researchers made significant and early advances in understanding the coronavirus and its spread, from piloting a saliva-based testing process to encouraging the usage of face masks. With several vaccines nearing authorization and distribution, the panelists also emphasized the need for adequate messaging that will encourage people to take the doses. “This is going to be the telling issue as we’re going into the vaccines,” Ko added.

Still, if a vaccine comes out soon, and infections are limited, masks could still be a part of much of daily life.

“I think it’s going to be a long while for us to get back to a precise, old normal,” Forman told the online gathering.

Submitted by Ivette Aquilino on November 20, 2020