It finally feels like spring is here: The weather is warm, the end of classes is near and students are getting ready for Spring Fair. While there is much to celebrate, we also acknowledge that Hopkins has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases following spring break and the emergence of a highly contagious Omicron subvariant. In fact, cases are rising nationwide as well.
In response to the recent surge of cases, other cities and universities are reinstating COVID-19 precautions. This week, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to restore its indoor mask requirement. Columbia University and Barnard College have partially brought back their indoor masking requirements, while nearby Georgetown University has mandated masking in all indoor spaces indefinitely.
Though Hopkins has also partially reinstated its mask mandate, these updates aren’t permanent. According to an email sent to undergraduate students last week, the policy changes will revert back on April 22. Unfortunately, in the last week alone, over 100 Hopkins students have tested positive for COVID-19. Given this trend, we wonder what COVID-19 numbers will look like in eight days.
The increase in cases in our community is so significant that Hopkins has expanded its isolation housing to include rooms in two additional hotels — the Mt. Washington Conference Center and the Marriott Residence Inn in East Baltimore. However, students living off campus aren’t guaranteed rooms for quarantining. Given the fact that off-campus students also live in close quarters, they should be offered isolation housing from the University as well.
With so many exciting events to look forward to, this surge in cases is even more concerning. Spring Fair is making its first full return since 2019, jam-packed with events and activities like fireworks, live music and countless vendors to visit and enjoy. As students, we want the opportunity to enjoy the spring season safely, without sniffles or COVID-19 transmissions.
To ensure this, Hopkins must take a more proactive approach on its COVID-19 policies. We recognize that transmission can occur off campus without the oversight of the University. However, Hopkins must put its foot down where it can by decreasing the risk of transmission on campus before there is a larger spike. Although the University has reinstated masking in dorms and dining halls, Hopkins could demonstrate its commitment to keeping students safe by extending this temporary directive to study spaces around campus.
Additionally, Hopkins must support students who are already sick by providing online alternatives. Currently, the University has not adopted a standardized attendance policy to ensure that symptomatic students receive the same resources as those able to attend class. This is vital considering that some classes are entirely in-person and lack a virtual option. Failing to accommodate sick students encourages them to attend class in person, potentially endangering their peers. Meanwhile, students who decide to stay at home could face the predicament of missing lecture material.
But Hopkins is not solely responsible for keeping case numbers low: Students also have a personal responsibility to stop the spread. We must adhere to policies that are already in place and make informed decisions when attending large events. Get tested regularly, wear the proper mask to class and if you feel sick, for the love of Jay, please stay at home.