In a reversal from previous fall semester masking guidelines, the University announced earlier today that it will reimpose the indoor masking mandate and reinstate social distancing requirements for indoor dining. According to the email, the policies will take effect August 5 for all affiliates, regardless of vaccination status.
Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott reinstated the city's indoor mask mandate as well, it will take effect across Baltimore on Monday, August 9 at 9 a.m.
Exceptions to the University’s renewed mask mandate include in single-occupancy and shared office settings where 6-foot distancing can be maintained; among roommates in residence halls, dorms, suites and apartments; and while eating and drinking at least 6 feet from another person. The Office of the Provost may also approve exceptions in instructional settings if provided with pedagogic rationale and sufficient distancing is possible.
In an email to The News-Letter, Senior Media Relations Representative Jill Rosen stated that The Office of the Provost has not yet exempted any instructional settings from the new mandate.
The University added that the only food provided at University-supported events will be grab-and-go food or drinks and snacks that can be consumed with momentary unmasking.
Junior Tomisin Longe thinks that the new restrictions are not a surprise given COVID-19 numbers in Maryland.
“The updated mask mandate is something we all saw coming. With the recent increase in Delta cases, it makes sense for Hopkins to reintroduce the indoor mask mandate,” they said.
The University explained that it made its decision based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends indoor masking for everyone living in an area where the incidence of COVID-19 cases is more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people or where the seven-week positivity rate is greater than 8%. The administration noted that Maryland has crossed that threshold.
Longe added that they had planned on continuing to wear a mask regardless of the University‘s masking policy.
Senior Bridget O’Leary supports the University’s decision.
“Though I was looking forward to a mask-free semester, I understand why they’re enforcing the mandate, and I appreciate them looking out for our health, as it’s probably in the students’ best interest,” she said.
Freshman Hannah Puhov, who had deferred her enrollment by a year due to concerns about online learning, expressed mixed feelings about the new rules.
“I'm kind of upset because I did take a whole year off in the hopes of getting a semi-normal college experience by the time I actually started school, but I do understand the reasoning behind it, given the Delta variant,” she said.
As a health-care worker, Puhov noted she is used to wearing a mask indoors. However, she was hoping for at least some form of a normal dining experience.
“I was excited to get to eat food with people and that kind of stuff,” she said. “I'm wondering if outdoor dining will be socially distanced or not, because if not maybe they could put out a tent so people can eat together.”
According to Rosen, the University is not requiring social distancing in outdoor settings.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated August 6, 2021 at 2:31 p.m. with information that was not available at press time.