Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 18, 2021

University releases draft plan for hybrid spring reopening

By MICHELLE LIMPE | December 20, 2020

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COURTESY OF RUDY MALCOM

Beginning Jan. 14, all undergraduates in Baltimore will be required to be tested twice a week.

The University shared a draft plan for Phase Two of its reopening in an email to Hopkins affiliates on Dec. 18. The plan is intended to go into effect when the spring semester begins on Jan. 25 and will replace the Phase One plans implemented during the fall semester.

The release of the draft guide, however, does not signify that Hopkins has determined whether to carry out the proposed hybrid reopening plans. The final decision will be made during the week of Jan. 4.

Stephen Gange, executive vice provost for academic affairs, and Jane Schlegel, vice president and chief administrative officer, emphasized in the email that ensuring the health and safety of all affiliates requires a community effort.

“Moving to an expanded operating posture at the appropriate time is a challenge that will require the help of every member of our community, but our experience so far gives us confidence that it is one we can meet,” they wrote. “Our success in resuming research and clinical operations shows that with careful preparation and diligent adherence to our guidelines, we can safely conduct in-person activities in furtherance of our mission even amid the pandemic.”

Despite their optimism, Gange and Schlegel stressed that the administration may still change its current plans if the public health situation worsens.

Sophomore Melody Lei does not believe that the University will be able to reopen with a hybrid plan in the spring regardless of its ability to implement various health and safety protocols.

“A lot of students are really skeptical about if we are going to actually be able to return because we are all aware that cases are on the rise,” she said. “It is very weird and ironic for Hopkins to tell us we can come back even though they are the ones tracking all the cases and telling us how bad the virus is.“

The Phase Two guidelines will maintain many of the Phase One rules, including mandatory mask-wearing both indoors and outdoors, daily health check-ins through the Prodensity app and restrictions on gatherings.

Hopkins affiliates can schedule testing appointments and receive results through MyChart, and the University will also set up nine testing locations across all of its campuses, five of which will be on Homewood Campus.  

All undergraduates in Baltimore must be tested twice a week starting on Jan. 14, and all students returning to campus must be tested upon arrival and quarantine until they receive a negative result. Undergraduate students will also receive a wellness kit, which includes a face mask, hand sanitizer, a digital thermometer and cleansing wipes, upon move-in.

Faculty, staff, graduate students and other personnel who participate in in-person activities or are exposed to undergraduates are also required to be tested once a week. 

Once a residential student tests positive for COVID-19, the student will be moved into isolation housing. Similar measures will be taken for undergraduate and graduate students in off-campus housing who test positive based on need and availability. Employees who test positive must secure clearance from the Occupational Health office before returning to campus.

Lei, a first-generation, limited-income (FLI) stated, said that the University has helped FLI students financially throughout the pandemic. However, she noted that Hopkins needs to improve on communicating its plans.   

“They’re doing the bare minimum. It’s no different from seeing what other schools have done,” she said. “Over the summer, there were a lot of broken promises.”

She voiced concerns that the University’s current schedule to release its final reopening plans would give students only three weeks to prepare in case the University reverts to online-only plans, as it did in the fall

Freshman Isabella Lelis echoed Lei’s sentiments in an email to The News-Letter.

“While I understand and appreciate the administration’s desire to make a final decision based on the public health situation right before we would go to campus in the spring, I know many first-year students, along with myself, who are upset with their lack of transparency and just want to know if we will finally be able to be a part of the Johns Hopkins community,” she wrote. 

However, junior Marissa McDonald, a member of the COVID-19 student advisory committee, believes the University has improved its communication to the student body about ongoing deliberations. She also feels safer about her decision to return for the spring, given the University’s mandatory testing policies.

McDonald noted, however, that members of the committee have pointed out that there were still instances of gatherings over the summer and during the fall that resulted in positive cases among students

“We encouraged them to put together a more comprehensive guide for students in popular living conditions to provide a process for students who observe a large gathering and feel uncomfortable reporting it,“ she said. “Currently, all they have is the calling service for reporting in real time. But for people like me, I get anxious reporting something like that, so implementing a service in real time where it’s a little less confrontational would be helpful to increase those reports in real time so those large gatherings can be monitored.”

Although the University plans to to allow undergraduates to reside in on-campus housing at a limited capacity, students will not be required to be on campus, and all classes will have an online option. Dining facilities will be open for takeout, and food delivery will be provided to students in quarantine.  For residence halls, students will have their own rooms and will not be permitted in other residential spaces.

Senior Noah Johnson believes that allowing students to live in University housing may prove unsafe.

“Even if everyone has their own bedroom and sharing of bathrooms is limited, the freshman dorms, specifically the AMRs, only have so many bedrooms and bathrooms. People are still gonna be at increased risk,” they said. “If people want to come back to campus and they have the means to rent an apartment or house, they should do that instead.”

The University’s recreational facilities, including the Recreation Center on the Homewood Campus and Cooley Center at the East Baltimore Campus, will be open at a limited capacity. Laboratories, libraries and other academic facilities will continue to operate under the Phase One guidelines. 

McDonald emphasized that the hybrid reopening plans, though detailed, are not finalized.

“This is all assuming that we’re good to go for the spring. People have a tendency to assume that it’s an automatic ‘yes’ now, but that’s still very much not the case,” she said. 

As the task force continues to plan for the spring semester, the group encourages students to submit their comments and suggestions through the 2020 Planning feedback form

Leela Gebo, Gabriel Lesser and Rudy Malcom contributed reporting to this article. 

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