Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on July 30, 2021.
Dear Johns Hopkins Community,
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a resumption of indoor masking requirements regardless of an individual’s vaccination status in communities with substantial or high transmission of COVID, which it defines as 50 or more new cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of greater than 8% during a seven-day period. Baltimore and the state of Maryland remain below the CDC’s thresholds, but Washington, D.C., exceeds them, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has reinstated the district’s indoor masking requirement. As of Saturday, universal indoor masking will resume at Johns Hopkins University properties in Washington. Additionally, in light of its unique circumstances related to patient care, Johns Hopkins Medicine, including the School of Medicine, has also reinstated universal masking in its facilities effective today.
For all other JHU operations, we are closely monitoring local levels of infection, and we will follow the CDC’s guidance and reinstate indoor masking requirements if transmission levels exceed the CDC’s thresholds. Additionally, we are consulting with our public health experts, deans, and the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee about whether to resume indoor masking even at lower levels of community transmission, and we will follow up next week.
The most important thing you can do is to get vaccinated if you have not done so already. As you know, JHU has instituted a requirement that all faculty, students, and staff either submit documentation that they have been vaccinated or apply for an exception to the mandate by this Sunday, August 1. We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccination within our community thus far but need everyone to do their part in this regard. Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community in this pandemic, and our goal remains to reach as close to 100% vaccination among our faculty, students, and staff as possible.
Our plans for broad resumption of in-person academic, research, and extracurricular activities, as well as staff return plans, are unchanged, and we look forward to being together again in the coming weeks. As public health conditions vary, we expect that periods of masking or other restrictions (e.g., on eating together indoors) will be a fact of life for the near future. But as we prepare for the fall semester, we do not anticipate the need for public health precautions as extensive as those we instituted last year.
Evidence about the increased transmissibility of the new delta variant is emerging. Fortunately, the data continues to show vaccines remain effective in preventing serious illness. However, the risk for SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated when community transmission of the virus is widespread. Masking and vaccination mandates reflect the need to protect those who have an approved medical or religious exemption and to prevent transmission to those who are at increased risk for severe disease and among families with children younger than 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines.
As always, we will put the health and safety of our community and our Baltimore neighbors first, but we remain optimistic that we will be able to come together this fall for a much more normal university experience.
Stay safe and be well,
Professor and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Professor, Vice Provost, and Chief Risk Officer
Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer