University administrators announced updates to its fall health guidelines in an email broadcast yesterday. In line with changes to the citywide mask mandate, individuals who upload proof of vaccination will no longer be required to wear masks indoors or outdoors and may also eat and drink without social distancing. Testing for vaccinated individuals will be required only once a week.
In an interview with The News-Letter, incoming freshman Sofia Melamed said that she is not surprised by the relaxation of guidelines given that the public health situation has improved considerably in Maryland.
“Restrictions are only needed [when] COVID-19 infections are putting significant strain on the healthcare system,” she said. “At the moment, they are not in the United States and Maryland in particular.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Vice Provost and Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Jon Links and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephen Gange cited the improvement in public health metrics as a reason for the decision.
“We are adjusting and matching our public health control measures as appropriate to the public health situation, which has improved considerably here,” they wrote. “New cases, test positivity, hospitalizations, and deaths are all far lower than they have been then at any time in the last 15 months.”
Rising sophomore Jabari Lawrence agreed that these changes in policy were expected.
“We have a vaccine mandate, so I'm less worried about the school and more about the city and state at this point,” he said.
In the email, administrators also emphasized the implementation of the University’s Vaccine Management System. Starting July 1, students and faculty will have until August 1 to upload a photo of their vaccination card to the system. Those who received a two-dose vaccine must submit evidence that they have received the second dose. A vaccine approved by the World Health Organization taken abroad requires an accredited English version of documentation.
Those requesting exemptions from being vaccinated due to religious or medical reasons will be required to submit documentation supporting their reasoning. Exempt individuals will still need to wear masks, socially distance and get tested twice a week.
Rising junior Tomisin Longe noted that the University’s new masking policy makes sense in the context of the city, but raised concerns over how it would be enforced for unvaccinated individuals.
Links and Gange discussed this enforcement in their email to The News-Letter.
“Based on our experience with annual flu vaccination, we anticipate that a modest number of affiliates on campus will not be vaccinated due to an approved exception,” they wrote. “Compliance will be tracked by a combination of Prodensity and school-level active monitoring processes.”
Senior Media Relations Representative Jill Rosen explained in an email to The News-Letter that the administration made its decision based on data reflecting a decrease in new cases, hospitalizations, test positivity and deaths. The University reported 350 student cases during the 2020-21 academic year and 5 student cases since the beginning of the summer term.
However, Rosen noted that changing circumstances will prompt the University to adjust course.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation, and will adjust if necessary, including reinstituting masking and other measures if appropriate,” she wrote.