In an email sent to the Hopkins community on April 22, the University extended the safety protocols reinstated after spring break, which include required masking in dining facilities and residence halls and twice-weekly testing. Previously, the protocols were set to end after April 22.
The email explained that although positive cases among undergraduates have decreased, the rise in COVID-19 cases among Hopkins affiliates and the Baltimore community informed the decision to extend the protocols. Since April 16, 90 students and 55 employees have tested positive.
Vice President for Communications Andrew Green discussed the University’s decision to extend these policies in an email to The News-Letter.
“As always, we looked at our case counts within the Johns Hopkins community, as well as those in Baltimore, Maryland, and D.C., and we consulted with our experts in medicine and public health,” he wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to extend the limited additional precautions enacted after spring break, and to match the timing of these control measure changes with the end of in-person class sessions and the end of the academic year.”
The Omicron BA.2 variant has led to an increase in cases across the country, including in the Maryland and D.C. area.
Green noted the rise in COVID-19 cases in the surrounding Baltimore community and how this may impact students on campus.
“The new variant circulating has led to an uptick in community cases,” he wrote. “We strongly encourage those students who have concerns based on their personal circumstances to continue using indoor face coverings when possible, obtain additional rapid tests to supplement the mandatory saliva-based tests, and exercise caution in the activities that bring them in close contact with others of unknown COVID status.”
Undergraduate students will now follow the twice-weekly testing and temporary indoor masking policies until April 30. According to the email, from May 1 through Commencement on May 22, undergraduate and graduate students will have to test once a week and the masking policy will revert to the guidelines established on March 9.
Beginning on May 23, students who have received vaccinations and boosters will not be required to do weekly asymptomatic testing. During the summer, the University expects to be mask-optional, with potential circumstances requiring face coverings in designated areas. Those who are granted exceptions to the vaccination mandate are still required to mask indoors and test twice weekly during the summer.
Green explained that the University does not expect changes to the control measures outlined in the broadcast and that mandatory testing and masking will be used based on the COVID-19 cases and trends on campus and in the surrounding community. He noted that the University does not anticipate spikes in the number of student cases like the period after spring break because of warmer weather and outdoor activities and added that masking will be required in in-person final examination sites during finals week.
In an email to The News-Letter, Freshman Class Senator Jackson Morris explained that while he agrees with extending the testing policy and mask policy for residential areas, he does not understand the decision in dining halls.
“I was led to believe by the April 6 email from Student Affairs that the driving force behind the temporary reassumption of mandates and twice-weekly testing was that students were testing positive for and being isolated at a rate that exceeded the University's ability to accommodate all of them, which led to some students being directed to isolate in place,” he wrote.
While Morris believes the mask mandate in residential halls is reasonable since students that test positive for COVID-19 may be in isolation in their own rooms, he added that since students will be taking their masks off to eat in the dining halls and areas like Mudd Hall and Brody Café are mask-optional, he doesn’t see what difference the mask mandate will make in the dining hall.
He stated that if reducing transmission is the intended goal, it would make more sense if masks were required everywhere indoors.
Freshman Janya Budaraju agreed with the extended safety protocols in an interview with The News-Letter.
“To me, it’s a really positive step forward. With COVID cases rising, it’s an important decision that can protect our community, particularly those that couldn’t get vaccinated due to disabilities and other preexisting conditions,” she said.
Budaraju noted that since the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still unknown, she believes that safety protocols, such as wearing masks, are important.
She added that she wishes the mask mandate extended to the library because it’s a location where many students congregate and are surrounded by people they may not know.
“Compared to the dorm rooms, where you are around people you know better and you can manage your risks, the library forces you to be in close contact with people that they don’t know that well,” she said.
According to Green in an email to The News-Letter when the policies were first reinstated, the locations chosen for masking were based on which areas of campus were at the greatest risk.
In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Mariel Lindsay expressed her appreciation for the University’s decision to extend the mask policy, but she described mixed feelings about the twice-weekly testing.
“I am not surprised since there has been an increase in cases and they have remained high since they lifted the mandate,” she wrote. “I think it's a good idea to extend the mask mandate but twice a week testing can be a bit much at times.”
Similar to Budaraju, Lindsay explained that while she feels safe because of required masking in classrooms, she wishes this protocol was enforced in the library.
“I am grateful that they require masks in classrooms because it would make me extremely uncomfortable to be in close contact with unmasked strangers,” she wrote. “I do, however, wish that they kept it in the library.”
Freshman London Craddock echoed Lindsay’s statements concerning masking in the classroom in an email to The News-Letter. Craddock added that he feels certain the University’s decision to extend the mask policy will serve its purpose.
“The administration's response to COVID-19 has earned my trust many times over, and I'm confident they've made an informed decision and are erring, as I prefer, on the side of caution.”