Mandatory COVID testing for graduate students

Dear Faculty and Students: 

Since the start of the semester, the Johns Hopkins community has done an excellent job of taking the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe from the spread of COVID-19. Our vaccination rates are extremely high, and those who have been required to be vaccinated again because they had previously not been able to receive an FDA-authorized vaccine are doing so diligently. Your adherence to good practices in masking, maintaining distance when eating, and other safeguards is reflected in the low incidence of COVID in our community. We continue to see no evidence of spread in our classrooms or labs, and so far this semester just 48 students have tested positive out of more than 34,000 tests, a test positivity rate of 0.1%. 

However, we know from our own experience and that of peers that maintaining low rates of COVID within our community is a constant challenge, and one that requires us to continually update our tactics in accordance with best practices. Asymptomatic testing is an important tool in detecting COVID cases before they turn into outbreaks, which is why we have continued it this semester among vaccinated undergraduates and students and employees who have approved exceptions to the vaccine mandate. 

Although the numbers have thankfully remained low, so far this semester, we have detected more positive cases among graduate students than undergraduates, despite the much higher number of tests conducted for undergrads. Indeed, the actual Covid-positive case rate among graduate students on campus is more than twice as high as it is for undergraduates. Consequently, we have decided out of an abundance of caution to expand mandatory, once-weekly COVID testing to vaccinated graduate students (not including School of Medicine students, who continue to follow JHM’s guidelines) who are in-person on a Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., beginning the week of October 4. For purposes of testing, the week resets every Monday morning. 

We recognize that this requirement poses a minor inconvenience, but we believe it will contribute meaningfully to our ability to maintain the low rates of spread that we are now experiencing. Fortunately, the COVID cases among our students so far this year have generally produced mild symptoms, if any, owing to our near-universal vaccination. But we are mindful of the potential impact of the particularly virulent delta strain on members of our community, their families, and our neighbors who, for medical reasons or because they are children under age 12, are unable to be vaccinated.

We have sought to make testing as easy as possible, with more than 10 locations across our campuses. Details on testing sites and hours of operation, as well as instructions on how to make a testing appointment, are available on the JHU Coronavirus Information website. Students who are not physically on a Johns Hopkins Baltimore or D.C. campus do not need to be tested. Compliance with mandatory testing requirements will be monitored through Prodensity, and if you are not in D.C. or Baltimore please be sure to change your campus status in Prodensity’s settings to “not on campus.”  

Thank you again for your cooperation. Working together, we can make this a healthy and productive semester.

Be well,

Stephen Gange
Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Jon Links
Vice Provost and Chief Risk Officer