Reflections from the ITS COVID-19 meeting

December 10, 2020

ITS colleagues met on November 30 to hear from a panel of local experts on the state of COVID-19 at Yale. Among the topics discussed were Yale’s health guidelines, its approach to managing COVID-19 positive staff, the availability of symptomatic and asymptomatic testing, and more.

Lead Administrator Mark Manton led the discussion with the following panelists:

Dr. Spangler started by reviewing Yale’s Health Guidelines and acknowledging that Connecticut is now in its second wave of increased COVID-19 cases, with almost all states on the CT Travel Advisory. While “we know how to treat COVID-19 better than we did last spring, hospital numbers are now approaching the same numbers [1K+] we saw last spring,” she shared. Despite the rising numbers, the Yale community is practicing healthy behaviors which enabled many students to be on campus through November 20 and continues to allow others to practice their research and clinical work. Two approaches are being utilized to facilitate on-campus activity:

  • To prevent infection, safety measures are implemented, including wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands, limiting gatherings or opportunities to come together, and being outdoors whenever possible if gathering can’t be avoided. These measures were all put in place when researchers first returned to campus.
  • To help control transmission, certain individuals may be regularly tested, isolate if they receive a COVID-19 positive result and participate in contact tracing to identify others who may have been exposed. Close contacts who were identified through contact tracing are asked to quarantine.

While regular student testing helped to contain three possible on-campus outbreaks, all panelists agreed that most outbreaks are linked to travel and social gatherings, and that the number of positive cases have been higher among employees and dependents than undergraduates.

While regular student testing helped to contain three possible on-campus outbreaks, all panelists agreed that most outbreaks are linked to travel and social gatherings, and that the number of positive cases have been higher among employees and dependents than undergraduates.

Although testing and contact tracing are important, Dr. Wilson reminded everyone that they don’t prevent initial infections. For those who have symptoms, testing is available daily at the Lanman Center and can be scheduled by calling the Campus COVID Resource Line (CCRL) (self-scheduling is not available for those with symptoms). Voluntary testing for those without symptoms is available to all members of the Yale community up to two times per week per employee or dependent on the Yale Health Plan. Three locations will remain open over winter break: the Lanman Center, 150 York Street, and 60 Prospect Street. Learn more about the Screening Program on Yale’s COVID-19 website. Thus far, 15k+ unique individuals have taken part in Yale’s testing program.

Among on-campus ITS staff, most are participating in voluntary testing and only three individuals have tested positive through Yale testing. Dr. Wilson said that “there is no evidence that these individuals contracted COVID-19 within the workplace” and that Yale’s “on-campus preventative measures are working.”

For those who test positive, the following would occur:

  • First, if you were tested at Yale Health, you will be notified through MyChart. Those tested by outside vendors will not be contacted by Yale.
  • Then, the Yale Health team will be informed, prompting a call from Yale Health nurses who will ask you questions and explain how to isolate. You will receive regular check-ins from them until you are well.
  • Lastly, the contact tracing team will reach out to identify any potential contacts who may have been exposed. This process only works with the full cooperation of the COVID-19 positive individual. Infected persons aren’t identified to contacts—their name is not shared and appropriate confidentially has been maintained in the contact tracing program.

Dr. Wilson encouraged all employees to use asymptomatic test sites up to two times per week, with testing only taking about two minutes.

Professor Niccolai added that, while Yale largely follows the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, its contact tracing efforts have been “above and beyond what the state and local teams are able to do.” Yale’s contact tracing team consists of Professor Niccolai, three coordinators and six (soon to be nine) full-time contact tracers. For the several hundred cases of COVID-19 in the campus community, the team has contact traced 1k+ individuals.

Kevin Charbonneau, whose team is conducting risk assessments to ensure that facilities are sufficiently decontaminated, encouraged individuals to contact Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) for any questions. “We determine where the individual was in the last 72 hours because the organism responsible for COVID-19 is not viable after that point, and we want to be sure the space is sufficiently cleaned” he stated. For more health and safety information, he encouraged staff to review guidance on the EHS website. He also reminded everyone that PPE is available for free (ITS is centralizing requests through Cheri Ross,

The conversation then opened up for questions and answers, including:

There are staff who work with general contractors for construction and renovation projects—how do we ensure our staff who need to work with them are assured that those workers adhere to same/similar protocols? Do general contractors have designated Health/Safety Leaders or something similar?

Mr. Charbonneau responded that, in most scenarios, if someone tests positive for COVID-19 on a construction site, the construction manager is informed and identifies all potential contacts, places, and the times they were there. This resulting information is received by them and the COVID-19 leader in Yale Project Management, to evaluate further action, including an assessment of cleaning/decontamination needs. All contractors and vendors are required to have safety plans (submitted to Yale Procurement) and must login through a daily health check system which is similar to the one used by Yale staff, but specific to vendors/contractors. Their daily health check expectations are the same as those for Yale staff. Details of these requirements can be found on the Yale Procurement – Vendor Site Access Requirements webpage.

If there is a positive case amongst contractors, do they notify Yale for contact tracing?

Professor Niccolai confirmed that the contact tracing group is adjusting its approach to accommodate the number of contractors at Yale. She recommended that you call the Campus COVID Resource Line to address any concerns about possibly having been in close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual.

The number one question that her contact tracing group gets asked is “Why didn’t contact tracing call me after a staff member tested positive?” Her team can only contact trace when they hear about positives from the index (infected) patient. If you didn’t hear anything, in all likelihood, that person didn’t identify you.

If someone is not wearing a mask, or following Yale’s protocols, how do we report it?

Mr. Charbonneau encourages staff to tell a supervisor, call the Campus COVID Resource Line, or tell Mark Manton (the IT Health and Safety Leader)–there are a number of ways to report a concern. The quickest route to correct an issue, if you see it, is to try to address it directly with the individual.

Mark closed the meeting, by encouraging the ITS community to contact him (, the Campus COVID Resource Line, or EHS for any additional questions or concerns.