The University increased undergraduate gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, effective on March 31. Previously, these numbers were capped at five people indoors and 10 people for outdoor meetings.
In an email to the student body, Provost Sunil Kumar and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan explained that COVID-19 cases have dramatically decreased since the spike last February.
“New infections among students have remained in the low single digits per day, even as we have gradually loosened some of the restrictions imposed to prevent the virus’ spread,” they wrote.
They emphasized that students still need to follow all other COVID-19 precautions. Students must wear masks and continue following social distancing protocols when gathering indoors.
Sophomore Hyunwoo Roh, a member of the baseball team, trusts that the University’s decision is a step in the right direction.
“I’d say Hopkins is more conscious and careful as opposed to some other schools in the United States,” he said. “I'm assuming the University is basing its decision on preplanned numbers and their long-term plan.”
He believes athletes should act more responsibly because the infection of a team member could affect the whole team and the entire sports program.
He noted that the baseball team began practicing in larger groups as the restrictions loosened in March.
“Baseball is a really spaced sport where you have your own space, so I don’t think anything will necessarily change,” he said.
In an email to The News-Letter, sophomore Julia Ma expressed concerns about the increased capacity allowances.
“The only thing I'm slightly worried about is the expanding social bubbles, since it'll be a lot more challenging to contact trace if someone tests positive,” she wrote. “I hope that everyone stays responsible for their actions so that we can ease restrictions further as the situation improves.”
She added that students should still follow guidelines even though many of them have been vaccinated.
University leaders announced in an email to the student body on March 30 that people over the age 16 with pre-existing health conditions are eligible to get vaccinated in the state of Maryland. By April 27, anyone over the age of 16 can be vaccinated.
“Higher education institutional frontline workers with potential contact with students living in residence halls (congregate living), facilities maintenance, dining hall, and campus police, as well as faculty, postdocs, and graduate students teaching in person in classrooms or labs are also eligible,” they wrote.
Despite this opportunity, Assistant Vice President of External Relations for the Office of Communications Karen Lancaster maintained that the University will not be requiring students to get vaccinated, but these guidelines are subject to change depending on the public health situation.
Freshman Journey Morrison explained that she was lucky to secure an extra appointment to get vaccinated at the Baltimore Convention Center in an email to The News-Letter.
“The process was smooth enough. Despite the sheer amount of people, I was able to go in and out in about an hour,” she wrote.
However, Ma did not have the same positive experiences. She explained that the process took longer for her due to technological and logistical difficulties in scheduling the appointment after getting off the waitlist.
“I'm happy to say that I actually made my appointment today for tomorrow afternoon. I'm the second to last person in my entire family to get vaccinated (they're back in California), so it is pretty exciting to finally be getting my first dose,” she wrote.
Ma is a member of the dance group SLAM, and she looks forward to dancing with more of her team members.
“We are currently planning a ‘random dance play’ bonding event, and now that we are allowed to gather up to 25 outdoors, we can get together as a team for this hangout,” she wrote.
In an email to The News-Letter, Lancaster explained that following the increased gathering limits, outdoor events are being planned during spring break days focused on wellbeing and wellness.
“Student Affairs is working with student organizations to support their outdoor events and are ready to pivot to the new gathering guidelines. Programming boards are also getting plans underway to offer outdoor events with the new guidance,” she wrote.