Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins undergraduate community on September 2, 2021.
Even in our community, where vaccination against COVID is near universal, maintaining safety amid this pandemic is regrettably difficult. The emergence of the delta variant means we are further from a full return to normal life than any of us had hoped, and we must continue to be diligent in the precautions we take for ourselves and each other.
We were heartened that the number of undergraduates who tested positive for COVID upon arrival was small—in the last seven days, 15 students tested positive out of 6,651 tests, a positivity rate of just 0.23%—but we are also mindful that several of our peer institutions are grappling with very serious surges.
We remain hopeful that we can avoid that, but we are also hearing of and observing many instances in which students are letting down their guard, and so we must remind you of the need to scrupulously follow our COVID safety requirements and of the consequences for failing to meet them:
Mask wearing at all times indoors is required and will be strictly enforced. The only time you may be unmasked while indoors is when you are in your residence alone or with a roommate, or when eating and properly distanced from others.
Eating indoors can be done only when distanced. Indoor eating on campus, including residential dining, can be done only with 6-foot distancing. Eating and drinking in close proximity to others remains a significant risk factor in the spread of COVID. If we continue to see ongoing violations, we will need to go back to offering only grab-and-go options.
Gatherings for indoor and outdoor university events, both on- and off-campus, are limited to 50 people unless special permission has been granted. Student groups planning events should work with their Student Affairs advisers to obtain permission. Students must register off-campus parties and follow all the guidelines in the Off-Campus Party Registration and Safety Policy. Last semester, and among peers this semester, we have seen the greatest transmission has occured at off-campus parties and gatherings.
All undergraduates must be tested weekly for COVID. Mandatory asymptomatic testing is crucial to our ability to detect and contain any outbreaks of COVID within our community. As with other members of the community, undergraduates with approved exceptions to the vaccination mandate are required to test twice weekly. As conditions warrant, we may increase asymptomatic testing frequency.
Cooperation with contact tracing is mandatory. In order to keep your fellow students, as well as faculty and staff, safe, we need all those interviewed as part of our contact tracing process to be fully forthcoming.
The consequences for failing to follow these requirements will be significant. As occurred on several occasions last semester, we will not hesitate to remove students from our residence halls or bar them from campus, as well as to suspend student groups, for violations of our COVID safety protocols. Because options for continuing courses remotely are not being made universal this year, any such sanctions may mean you are unable to complete the semester.
Even though vaccinated individuals have a lower risk of acquiring COVID and developing serious illness, they can still become infected and spread the virus to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, or to children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Our obligations to each other mean that we must take all the necessary precautions to limit the risk of this exposure. We were proud of the diligence of our students, faculty, and staff in fostering a safe and productive spring semester, and as we welcome our newest community members, the class of ’25, we are confident that we can do so again this fall.
Stay safe and be well,
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being
Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs