COVID cases among graduate students

| December 17, 2021
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Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on December 17, 2021.

Dear Johns Hopkins Community:

We write to report on a cluster of COVID cases detected this week among graduate students. At this time, we are seeing approximately 68 cases among Bloomberg School of Public Health students, a little more than half of which have been traced to off-campus parties held last weekend, and 52 cases among other students in eight of our graduate schools, also largely due to social interactions off campus. We continue to see no evidence of COVID transmission in our classroom or research spaces. Case counts among undergraduates, faculty, and staff have stabilized after a brief uptick following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Because of the continued effectiveness of our COVID prevention efforts in academic and research spaces, we are not changing our operating posture at this time. However, while definitive sequencing is not yet complete, we are seeing signs consistent with the emerging omicron variant. Early evidence suggests that omicron is more transmissible among vaccinated people than other variants, so we urge you to take the following steps to keep yourself and the community safe:

    • Wear a mask. Please remain diligent in mask-wearing indoors.
    • Avoid large gatherings, particularly indoors.
    • Get tested. Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those required to test because of vaccination exceptions, should remain diligent in completing required asymptomatic COVID testing. The current COVID cluster(s) were detected through asymptomatic testing, which enabled us to begin contact tracing and other containment measures.
    • Monitor yourself for symptoms. Do not assume that symptoms you’re experiencing are a cold or the flu. If you have symptoms consistent with COVID, including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, or muscle or body aches, call the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Call Center at 443-287-8500, seven days a week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
    • Get a booster shot. The vaccine booster appears to increase the vaccines’ effectiveness against omicron. You can register for a booster through MyChart. If you cannot schedule a booster before the holiday break, please consider doing so while you are away from campus. We are currently consulting with our public health experts about whether to require booster shots for those who are eligible and will be working to set up additional on-campus clinics for booster shots in January.
    • Depart campus right after exams. We strongly encourage undergraduates to leave campus as soon as possible after completing their exams and return after break as near to the start of their classes as possible. If you require financial assistance to change your travel plans, please complete the following online form or visit the COVID-19 financial aid resource page. We will continue to offer support for those who are unable to return home during the holiday break.

As always, the health of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as our Baltimore neighbors, is at the forefront of our minds. We will continue to monitor conditions in our community and emerging public health guidance, and we will adjust our plans and protocols as warranted. Please keep an eye out for further updates about this evolving situation.

We hope you will have a safe conclusion to the fall semester and a restful holiday break.

Stephen Gange
Professor and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Jon Links
Professor, Vice Provost, and Chief Risk Officer

Kevin Shollenberger
Vice Provost for Student Health & Well-Being
Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs