Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Johns Hopkins community on February 4, 2021.
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Since our communication to you yesterday morning, the university has continued to manage and investigate a concerning cluster of COVID cases among Homewood undergraduates. We have had 58 positive cases confirmed in this 6,000-student population since Tuesday afternoon (27 since our last message), compared with seven positive cases in the comparable period last week. We are have taken immediate steps to ensure these students are properly isolated and to perform contact tracing to identify and notify others who may be at risk. We also imposed additional testing requirements on specific subsets of our students, completing 2,600 COVID tests yesterday, and have put in place capacity for continued accelerated testing.
Importantly, all evidence continues to point to social gatherings off-campus last weekend as the most likely contributor to this cluster, and we are also taking a number of significant steps to limit student activity and improve student compliance with public health guidelines. In this regard, we want to reinforce to our undergraduate students in particular:
Your full and honest cooperation with contact tracers is crucial to our ability to control this recent spike in cases. If you are sick, tell these confidential tracers whom you were in contact with and where those interactions happened. As a reminder, contact tracing is wholly separate from the student conduct process—contact tracers cannot and do not share any individual information with the university as part of a disciplinary process.
We have extended through Friday, Feb. 5, the suspension of in-person Homewood undergraduate classes and laboratory research, as well as other in-person activities for Homewood undergraduates regardless of where they take place. We make this decision not because of a concern specific to classroom or research laboratory activity but to provide additional time for us to fully assess and intervene against the scope of the current spike in cases, including repeat saliva testing for as many students as possible and genetic testing of positive samples.
We will communicate about our plans for next week on Sunday, and, as always, the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and Baltimore neighbors will be our foremost priority.
To that end, we are instituting the following precautions:
Any violations of these requirements or other university COVID policies will be subject to the Student Conduct Code disciplinary process, and as we have demonstrated previously, we will not hesitate to take action if it is necessary to protect the community.
We know that maintaining COVID safety practices at all times is difficult, but we cannot stress enough how important it is that we all do so consistently and conscientiously. When you make poor decisions, you don’t just put yourself at risk, you put at risk the health and safety of our entire community.
We ask that you read and commit to the principles outlined in the Hopkins Social Compact, and in particular that you remember:
We hope to resume in-person activities and classes for Homewood undergraduates soon, but we need your help. We can have a safe semester together if we all stay focused on protecting ourselves and each other. Please do your part to make that possible for yourself, your colleagues, and your classmates.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being