First years believe Yale can handle COVID-19, according to survey

First years believe Yale can handle COVID-19, according to survey

Published on September 17, 2020

In an anonymous survey sent out to the class of 2024, first-year students largely showed confidence in the University’s COVID-19 protocols despite the ongoing pandemic and no unified directives to combat it at the federal level.

The survey was sent to 1,207 students in the class of 2024 on Aug. 31. It closed on Sept. 2 with 471 responses, a 39 percent response rate.

Yale, like many college campuses, shut down in March to prepare for an ongoing pandemic that has since killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Yale ultimately decided on July 1 that it would partially reopen with stringent public safety protocols in place, raising the possibility of an outbreak in the fall.

Before the semester began, outbreaks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Syracuse University and the University of Notre Dame made national headlines, instilling concerns among some incoming first years — 46 percent said these outbreaks made them nervous about coming to campus. One first year commented that public health concerns kept him from traveling to New Haven altogether.

“The pandemic is the sole reason that I have decided to study remotely this semester,” Zach Auster ’24 said. “I was not going to endanger my health and the safety of others by traveling cross country. The recent outbreaks at other campuses only strengthened my confidence in that decision as they showed that no matter how rigorous the protocols in place, coronavirus outbreaks can and will spread on campuses.”

First years said by and large that Yale’s protocols are fair, with only 7.5 percent saying they were “too strict” and 9 percent answering “not strict enough.”

Jamarc Simon ’24 said that he does not think Yale’s protocols are too strict, but “just right” because —per the rules — students are tested twice weekly and can go out into New Haven.

For all students enrolled and living in New Haven, twice weekly COVID-19 testing is mandatory, and protocols limit the size of social gatherings. Even with these measures in place, 6.2 percent of respondents thought it was likely that they will get COVID-19.

“I work with the University of Utah’s COVID response, so I have seen firsthand that people who never expected to get COVID end up getting it, and that strict measures are necessary to keep the spread of the virus to a minimum,” said Gabe Ransom ’24. “I think that it is best to always assume that you are infectious and take the appropriate steps to protect those around you with that in mind.”

Auster added that Yale’s policy lacks a “true line in the sand” for violations of its community compact. In his opinion, students who forgo masks or choose to party should be sent home as these choices have wider implications for public health.

Still, 86 percent of first years said that they believed if they were to get sick, Yale would have the resources to adequately care for them.

15 percent of respondents think it is “highly unlikely” that they will become infected with the virus — more than twice the percentage of those who believe they will likely get COVID-19.

The majority of respondents were confident in Yale’s protocols and attitudes toward social distancing: 53 percent of respondents found it “unlikely” that they would contract the virus. Still, students will now have more freedom as they were released from arrival quarantine last week, creating more opportunities for exposure to the virus.

Kesi Wilson ’21, a Davenport FroCo, said there has been “recklessness as much as there has been adherence to policies,” and that first years will occasionally congregate in large groups on Cross Campus or in front of residential colleges without masks.

“In those cases, FroCos across colleges have been mobilizing to break them up,” Wilson said.
“Overall though … it really comes down to the level of individuals and how much they feel a communal responsibility to follow the rules in order to keep people safe.”

Monitoring adherence to COVID restrictions comes as an additional obligation to FroCos, whose job even in non-pandemic times is primarily to keep first years safe. These efforts are aided by the newly appointed Public Health Education for Peers, or PHEPs, in each residential college.

One FroCo commented on the social implications of the COVID protocols they are asked to enforce.

“It’s definitely hard to essentially tell a first year to put their social life on hold, but we have seen first years violate some parts of the community compact — thankfully usually at less serious levels,” said Berkeley FroCo Brian Lin ’21. “The current situation is a matter of public health, and we try to make that very clear. it’s a collective effort to keep everyone safe, and thus, we face collective consequences.”

Yale has reported 12 student cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 1.

Most first years believe it is unlikely that they will become infected with COVID-19. (David Zheng)


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