Occupancy Requirements and Limits

Updated: January 7, 2022

Except for events and gatherings (see below), occupancy in spaces for congregating on campus is generally governed by available seating and/or typical occupancy, as well as the need for unvaccinated people to maintain 6-foot physical distancing from others while indoors. General occupancy principles are:

  • Avoid crowding and allow sufficient space for those who need or want to distance.
  • Do not add chairs or seating to a space to exceed normal capacity. Do not move chairs to crowd them into a small area of the room (e.g., moving chairs from multiple tables so that they surround a single table).
  • For classrooms, there is no distancing requirement for vaccinated students. (As a reminder, no student is permitted to remove their mask in the classroom.)
  • To avoid crowding, it may be advisable to post occupancy limits or traffic flow signs.
  • Reduced occupancy limits have been posted for spaces where aerosolizing activities take place (e.g., music practice and performance spaces, theaters, and gyms).
  • The Office of Facilities may recommend other occupancy limits based on the room’s typical occupancy and/or ventilation capacity.
  • Your EHS Safety Advisor can provide space-specific guidance.

NOTE: Until February 21, 2022 all events, gatherings, and meetings of any size require advance approval or reapproval by the COVID Review Team or cognizant HSL. See Yale’s Events, Gatherings & Meetings requirements for more.

For events, meetings, and gatherings, the permitted full capacity of a venue depends upon seating and whether it is indoors or outdoors, as shown in the table in the Policy. To ascertain 100% occupancy of a venue:

  • For seated indoor and outdoor events, 100% occupancy is equal to the number of seats or chairs that are normally used in the space. (Fire code seating limits may be the most restrictive capacity.) As mentioned above, additional chairs may not be brought into the space. Seats should be equally dispersed within the space and not crowded into parts of the space.
  • 100% occupancy of classrooms are available from 25 Live.
  • For events in indoor and outdoor spaces where people will not be seated, 100% occupancy is equal to 25 square feet per person. Calculate this by measuring the space. (Your smart phone may have an app for this.)

The Policy specifies a reduced maximum capacity of 75% or 50% of the occupancies calculated by the above procedure for venues with no seating or gatherings that include food, drinks, meals, and/or aerosolizing activities. See the table in the Policy for specifics.

For events, performances, and contests in venues with benches and movable chairs, a 75% maximum capacity can be achieved by planning a 33-36” spacing of attendees, patrons, and spectators.

Whenever possible, please use venues for which the ventilation has been verified to meet Yale COVID standards. See Campus Venues Available for Events and Gatherings for a list of on and off-campus ventilation-verified venues. Contact the COVID Review Team if you have questions about a venue’s ventilation.

Also see the Policy for additional requirements for gatherings. If you have questions, please contact your Safety Advisor or Facilities Superintendent.


For information masking and distancing in cubicles, please see Safe Campus Practices.


Yale Facilities Operations and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) staff have evaluated the ventilation systems in all occupied buildings, including all classroom spaces. Based on CDC and ASHRAE guidelines, modifications have been made to HVAC systems, which include upgraded filtration, extended run times of air systems, and modifications to air delivery systems to allow high levels of outdoor air supply to serve spaces and optimize work environments. Facilities and EHS have also evaluated environmental conditions in work locations that are naturally ventilated or that have limited mechanical ventilation. For spaces that lack mechanical ventilation and have no windows, ventilation has been enhanced or EHS has suggested limited occupancy. If you have questions about a space, contact your Facilities Superintendent or EHS Safety Advisor for an evaluation.

More details can be found on the Returning to Yale Facilities Information page.

Room Ventilation After Hours

To ensure that your after-hours meeting or activity room is properly ventilated, be sure to submit a Facilities Work Request prior to your event. “After-hours” refers to indoor events and meetings on weekends and after 8:00 pm on weekdays in Yale buildings.*

A Facilities Work Request can be submitted online (VPN required). If possible, please submit 24 hours ahead of the event. Include the following information:

  • Building name
  • Room number
  • Event start and end times

A Facilities Work Request can also be submitted by your Building/Department Administrator, operations manager, or Facility Superintendent. Facilities will ensure that room is properly conditioned for the event/meeting and provide a flush period before and after the event.

*This does not apply to laboratories, residential college/grad housing living areas, athletic facilities, and healthcare areas, which are on a continuous ventilation schedule.

Winter Ventilation

Naturally ventilated spaces can be challenging in periods of cold weather. Some buildings are naturally ventilated in the summer (by opening windows), but mechanical ventilation is provided for winter heating. In other spaces without mechanical ventilation, opening a window just a small amount provides significant ventilation without affecting room temperature. This is recommended.

Rest Periods

To allow air in mechanically ventilated indoor spaces to refresh, we recommend a periodic 30-60 minute vacant rest period between use of the space for highly aerosolizing activities (e.g., singing, debate, etc.), unmasked athletes (e.g., hockey, basketball), or meetings/gatherings that are longer than two hours.