In an email to Hopkins affiliates Wednesday morning, University leaders announced a two-day suspension of in-person classes and activities on the Homewood Campus after a spike in COVID-19 cases on Monday. The preliminary investigation revealed that the cluster was tied to an off-campus social gathering over the weekend.
“We are taking a quick and proactive approach to this moment, although our numbers are small relative to our total population, out of an abundance of caution and to provide the opportunity to reinforce our communications with undergraduates about COVID safety precautions,” the administrators wrote. “Those who tested positive and live in our residence halls have been transferred to isolation housing, and others are isolating in place off campus.”
There were 38 new positive student cases from 1,133 tests on Tuesday, which was the first testing day after the weekend since testing operations were suspended on Monday due to inclement weather. Positive new student cases had typically been in the low single digits since the expansion of asymptomatic testing in early January. Twenty-three new cases were reported on Wednesday.
The News-Letter confirmed through social media posts and text screenshots with individuals affiliated with the North Charles Social Club (WAWA), a former Hopkins chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, that WAWA hosted a party with more than 40 people over the weekend in its 3209 N. Charles Street building. Several individuals not part of WAWA, including freshmen living on campus, were present.
Historically associated with the men’s football team, the group has been hosting parties in its building throughout the fall semester, according to multiple eyewitness accounts. WAWA was suspended by the University in the spring of 2018, and has not been recognized since.
Freshman Richard Hu had to relocate to quarantine housing at the Inn at The Colonnade Baltimore Wednesday afternoon after one his suitemates, a member of the football team, tested positive. He noted that it is unclear whether his suitemate attended a superspreader event.
“I am not really that surprised about what happened. The reality of having to stay in this room for the next two weeks still hasn’t really gotten to me yet,” he said. “At first I was just trying to make sure I packed enough, and I’ve been on FaceTime with some high school friends for at least three hours trying to have people to talk to.”
All Charles Commons residents were ordered to be tested on Wednesday and self-quarantine. Student athletes living on and off campus are also required to do the same.
Freshman Rafael Medrano expressed frustration about having to quarantine in Charles Commons.
“I was supposed to have in-person for the first time, so it’s a little frustrating that we missed that because we’re falling behind on some stuff we were going to do,” he said.
Initial plans to start in-person classes on Monday were delayed to Tuesday as Baltimore experienced relatively heavy snowfall. Some students and faculty returned to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year on Feb. 2.
Classes will now be fully online once again until at least Thursday. The University is conducting contact tracing investigation on top of continued testing. On-campus facilities, including the Freshman Quad tent, are closed.
Junior Norah Wilson, who attended a class in Bloomberg Hall on Tuesday, believes that this incident signals that Hopkins should not start in-person classes.
“It is ridiculous to close for two days,“ she said. “That will not do anything. It would be better if we go back to being all online.”
Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Secretary Sophomore Breanna Soldatelli supports the University’s decision to suspend in-person activities.
“I am very happy that the University is closing down. They are making sure that the outbreak does not get bigger. I am very pissed that people thought it was okay to party in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “The 38 positive cases spike is just one day, and that number is going to keep going on. It is just really irresponsible.”
Junior Izzy Geada, the president of Pi Phi, acknowledged in an email to The News-Letter that the sorority is investigating reports of its members being present at the WAWA party.
“[We are] looking further into the allegation that we had a sister present at the event in question. We take seriously issues that concern the safety and well-being of our members and we expect actions of all members to reflect our core values,” she wrote.
The University’s Student Conduct Code has laid out a variety of corrective actions for non-compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.
In an email to The News-Letter, Karen Lancaster, assistant vice president of external relations for the Office of Communications, stated that the University is considering a variety of disciplinary measures.
“The university’s contact tracing and student conduct investigations are still underway and we cannot speculate as to the potential classification of findings,“ she wrote. “Should a student, organization, or group be found responsible for conduct violations the full range of sanctions will be considered up to and including suspension or expulsion.”
Soldatelli noted that it is difficult for the University to take action since WAWA is an “underground” organization not recognized by Hopkins. She, however, believes that the school should dole out disciplinary measures.
“There should be repercussions for students involved who broke both University and Baltimore guidelines,” she said. “It is not like they did not know what they were doing was bad.”
SGA Senior Class President William Cho expressed his disappointment in students who attend large gatherings.
“It is just really frustrating and infuriating that we have undergraduates that are engaging in reckless behavior. It’s been almost a year now that we know behavior like this puts people at risk,“ he said. “I don’t think students understand what it means to go to Hopkins. They’re engaging in behavior opposite of what our university stands for and what a basic human being with compassion should be doing.”
Greta Maras and Sarah Abdellah contributed to the reporting of this article.
WAWA declined requests to comment on the record.