Johns Hopkins University is reviewing its safety protocols before the spring semester begins as it prepares to resume a wide range of academic, research and other in-person activities as safely as possible amid the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, university leaders said Friday.
The most obvious change is the university’s masking requirements: JHU will now require the use of N95s, KN95s, or a combination of a cloth mask with a surgical mask. In other words, neither a cloth mask alone nor a surgical mask alone will meet the university’s mask requirements; John Links, Professor, Vice Dean and Head of Risk Management; Kevin Schulenberger, Deputy Dean for Student Health and Welfare and Deputy Interim Dean for Student Affairs in a letter to the JHU community on January 14.
“Two years into the pandemic, we know that the pressure on our community is great, and meeting in person is especially important to the well-being and progress of our students,” the officials said. “As always, we are carefully considering how best to maintain the safe environment we have been able to create on our campuses throughout the pandemic.”
Affiliates should upgrade their masks as soon as possible, and a variety of masks will be distributed in many locations across the university, across all campuses, starting next week. The medical school affiliates will continue to follow Johns Hopkins Medicine’s masking policy.
With a near-universal vaccination rate within the Hopkins community, the current increase is different from that facing JHU a year ago, when its online spring courses were held, Gange, Links, and Shollenberger wrote. They outlined key precautions in their letter outside of the new masking requirements, including:
- enhanced mandate With a deadline of February 1
- Twice a week test for students and asymptomatic on-demand testing for faculty and staff
- Requiring university students returning to residence halls to take the test and quarantine immediately in their rooms until receiving a negative test result
- Academic Flexibility For both students and faculty who may face challenges over the next two weeks when they return to campus. To this end, employees’ increased workplace flexibility will continue through February 7 at the discretion of each department.
The university has significantly increased its stock of secluded housing for students compared to the fall semester. It has also modified quarantine protocols in line with CDC guidelines and advice from Johns Hopkins University public health experts and will no longer require vaccinated and boosted students to quarantine after meaningful contact.
Other changes include a hub for an automated contact tracing system that allows those who test positive to fill out a form listing nearby contacts who will then be notified by email. Takeaway service will resume at residential dining facilities, and special permission to catering will be required for all non-academic indoor events of 50 people or more through February 6.
Additional details will be sent to undergraduates in a follow-up message, and the community is encouraged to visit covidinfo.jhu.edu for updates.