COVID-19 peak disrupts student life – Community News
Covid-19

COVID-19 peak disrupts student life



Jessie Cheung, staff photographer

This week’s spike in positive COVID-19 cases has taken its toll on students as they balance uncertainty about the virus with their approaching final exams and the end of the semester.

According to the Yale COVID-19 dashboard, the university recorded 102 cases in the seven-day period ending December 4. The bulk of those cases came earlier in the week — 12 positive tests were recorded on Nov. 28, and the following four days saw 19 cases each. Those numbers dropped to eight cases on December 3 and six on December 4. Still, it’s unclear whether the dip represents a continued decline in the number of cases, as university testing sites conducted less than a third of tests on Friday on Saturday.

“Overall, there’s been a sense of unspoken fear in the air since the announcement of the Omicron variant,” said Brook Smith ’25. “I think there’s a lot of fear and feelings that the current situation is similar to March 2020, and we don’t know yet if those fears are rational, but that’s what makes it so scary.”

Smith described the increase in student affairs that coincided with the rise of the Omicron variant as a “terrifying — hopefully — coincidence.”

In an interview with the news last week — before the surge in student cases — Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said he felt “cautious and concerned” about the variant.

“On the other hand, I also feel like we’re about as prepared as an institution, in that we have all of our infrastructure in place,” Chun said. “It’s another variant, but we’ve managed the Delta, for example, and this is another variant that we still have a lot to understand.”

Chun added that he trusted public health officials to provide more advice on student policy regarding the virus.

The recent cluster of cases is likely unrelated to Omicron — the first confirmed case of the variant in Connecticut was reported Dec. 4.

Dean of the Yale School of Public Health Sten Vermund told the news that the cases reported over the past week should not be cause for alarm, explaining that public health experts expected a slightly higher positivity rate due to student travel during recess. and the start of the flu season.

“I think most of us are pretty relaxed that we can close out the semester safely, just like we led this semester safely.” said Vermund. “Maybe there is a professor here and there who makes some changes, but in my class it will be normal, but normally involves a pretty cautious approach to life.”

Nevertheless, the renewed presence of COVID-19 on campus this week has had a dramatic impact on the lives of many students.

Leo Mateus ’24 was tracked down after his roommate’s girlfriend tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. On Friday, two of Mateus’ roommates also tested positive and moved into isolation homes.

According to the university’s COVID-19 information website — last updated on Dec. 6 — the contact tracing process starts when someone receives a positive test result. People tested at Yale Health or through a campus-based screening program will first receive their results via email, accompanied by “appropriate clinical guidance” and advance notice that the Yale Contact Tracing Team will be in touch. Those who receive a positive test result outside of the Yale system should call the Campus COVID Resource Line to notify them of the result.

The team’s goal is to initiate contact tracing interviews within 24 hours of a positive test, the website said.

“Expectations for vaccination students who have close contacts, such as other Yale policies, follow CDC guidelines as well as state and local health department guidelines: Vaccinated students should be monitored after an exposure, but quarantine is not recommended,” dean of Student affairs Melanie Boyd writes this in an e-mail to the news.

Mateus, who described the experience of contact as “very, very frightening”, told the news that he tried to isolate himself in his suite over the weekend.

“I have a lot of work to do, but I don’t want to do it because I don’t like working in my room,” Mateus said. ‘I’m just sitting here doing nothing. I’m going to start some work and then I’m like, ‘Oh, I’d rather just watch a movie.’ Yesterday I took a four hour nap. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’m getting my rest.’”

But Mateus, who spoke to the news on Sunday, predicted the return to classes would be a difficult transition.

Mateus said he planned not to attend classes with recorded lectures to avoid interacting with other students. However, in the classes that require students to attend in person, Mateus worried that he should “try to stay away from people” even though he has tested negative for COVID-19.

“What if I endanger these other people?” said Mateus. “I got out and I did my negatives, but what if this is still in me and I’m just spreading it?”

On Friday, Adam Abarca ’24 learned that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was quickly transferred to isolation homes.

But the two first tests Abarca took in insulation homes were negative, and he was told his previous test had been a false positive.

“Insulation housing is kind of the worst place you can be when you’re negative,” Abarca said on Sunday. “Actually, I’ve been in contact with at least nine different departments at Yale all morning, asking what I should do in terms of testing, how to handle classes and all that. And I haven’t really gotten any direct answers.”

Abarca added that he thought students who were unwilling or unable to go through the “bureaucratic process” of contacting university departments for instructions on how to leave isolation homes would likely have to stay there longer than he did.

Nikki Ambrose ’23 was unable to return to campus after Thanksgiving until December 6, as she tested positive while at home with her family and had to spend 10 days in isolation at home.

“I know I am personally very happy to be able to leave isolation and return to campus tomorrow,” Ambrose wrote in an email to the news on Sunday. “Much of the stay motivated and optimistic during this COVID era has been due to having the camaraderie of my suite and the comfort of the campus; this past week of isolation reminded me so much of how lonely and draining last fall semester was, and i’m happy to go back to the semi-normality of campus.”

Mateus echoed Ambrose’s sentiment, explaining that being separated from his roommates who tested positive for COVID-19 significantly disrupted the normality of his life at Yale.

Mateus’ suite was reunited on Friday evening during a Zoom conversation.

“They have symptoms and they’re getting better as they go, but it’s just kind of uncomfortable for them,” Mateus said. “But they have each other. They’re not really together, but the rooms they’re in are all next to each other.”

Abarca stressed that isolation in general, and his short experience in isolation housing, was “terrible”, although he recognized the importance of quarantine in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“I think it’s very important, and if you’re affected, I think you should go into isolation,” Abarca said. “But I think it worries me too, just because obviously it’s a really stressful time right now and being isolated, plus stress, plus seasonal depression just seems like a bad combination.”

Edmund Zheng ’24 told the news that the feeling of isolation could extend even to students not affected by the virus through contact tracing or infection, adding that COVID-19 restrictions mean many students feel alienated by the typical university life.

Zheng suggested that this could be improved through a more direct relationship between students and the members of the university administration enforcing COVID-19 policies.

“There is no relationship whatsoever between students and COVID-19 decision-makers, and they don’t seem to understand how their actions can harm campus life and traditions,” Zheng told the news.

University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler wrote in an email to the news that a student with a question or concern about current Yale policies and guidelines or community compliance with these policies and guidelines should contact their health and safety Leader or call the Campus COVID Resource Line (203-432-6604) or, if they wish to remain anonymous, call the university hotline.

More than anything, Anne Northrup wrote ’22, she was feeling “tired” of the ongoing conversation surrounding COVID-19.

“I’m tired of talking about it, tired of remembering my mask, tired of taking it as a footnote to everything I do,” Northrup wrote. “I understand this is an incredibly privileged position to be in. I have been vaccinated and not immunocompromised, nor do I know anyone who is immunocompromised. But it’s enough.”

Undergraduate students are now required to take two COVID-19 tests each week until the end of the fall semester.




LUCY HODGMAN




Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore at Grace Hopper majoring in English.




OLIVIA TUCKER




Olivia Tucker covers student policy and affairs. She was previously an associate editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine and covered gender equality and diversity as an employee reporter. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a sophomore at Davenport College majoring in English.