Note: this letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on May 6, 2022.
Dear Johns Hopkins Community:
The message below was sent to undergraduate students earlier today in response to an increase in COVID cases we have seen this week. While the situation does not warrant changes to most of our public health protocols at the moment, we have continued to consult with public health and medical experts and are temporarily returning to twice-weekly COVID testing for undergraduates and reinstituting masking requirements in the library and Brody Learning Commons to supplement our requirement for continued masking in classrooms and exams.
We have also reinstated a masking requirement at all indoor events of more than 50 people. Because it will take place outside, the universitywide Commencement ceremony will be unaffected, but masking will be required at some school-level Commencement ceremonies. The School of Medicine follows Johns Hopkins Medicine policies, which currently require universal indoor masking.
The end of the term is a stressful time for our students. We ask all instructors to exercise flexibility whenever possible for students who are in isolation because of COVID and cannot complete end-of-the-year assessments and examinations. The Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation has a good set of strategies to assist Homewood instructors with assessing students remotely; other divisions should consult with their own program directors and teaching and learning centers about options (see keepteaching.jhu.edu). This may include proctoring exams remotely using either Zoom or Respondus, or considering alternative assessments.
Please remember that asymptomatic testing remains available to all JHU affiliates, and both high-quality masks and rapid test kits are available at various university test sites. More details are on the JHU coronavirus information website.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will keep you informed.
You have a lot on your plates as the academic year comes to a close—exams, class events, and, for our seniors, Commencement. We know that the last thing you want is for COVID to interrupt those plans and, in that spirit, we are both enacting a few additional precautions and encouraging you to wear a mask in group settings.
We have seen a significant increase in COVID cases among undergraduates since last weekend, with a large proportion traced to a concert that took place on Saturday night. The event was in full compliance with our current COVID rules, but it is a reminder that even in a population with universal vaccination such as ours, the virus can still spread.
We are taking the following steps through Commencement (May 22) to reduce the spread of COVID on campus:
Undergraduates will now be required to test twice a week at our asymptomatic testing sites.
Masks will now be required in the libraries and study areas, such as Brody Learning Commons, given increased use during finals.
Family and other guests helping students move out of university residence halls will also be required to mask.
Masks will be required at indoor events of more than 50 people.
Because it will take place outdoors, where the risk of COVID transmission is low, we are not considering changes to our plans for the universitywide Commencement ceremony.
As you know, the use of a high-quality mask is very effective in preventing the spread of COVID, as well as the flu, and so we encourage you to wear a mask in group settings. And although at-home tests do not take the place of asymptomatic testing, they are another effective tool to ensure that you don’t inadvertently put others at risk. Masks and home tests that meet JHU’s standards are available at all asymptomatic testing sites and the Student Housing office. A simple bit of prevention can keep your end-of-semester plans on track. If you test positive on a home antigen test,please report the result here.
Many of the students who have recently tested positive are experiencing symptoms, though fortunately they have generally not become seriously ill. But even if symptoms are mild, contracting COVID presents a major disruption based on the need to isolate for at least five days, and although we will be communicating with faculty to help make sure that students forced to isolate have the opportunity to complete their exams, we also know that any disruptions can be particularly impactful at this point in the semester.
We thank you again for all you have done this year to prevent the spread of COVID on campus and in the surrounding community. Your efforts have helped allow classes and activities to continue uninterrupted. Let’s keep it up through the end of the semester.
Professor and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Professor, Vice Provost, and Chief Risk Officer
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being
Vice Provost for Student Affairs