Update on Johns Hopkins gathering limits

March 4, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

We are grateful for your continued commitment to the health and safety measures that have allowed for our return to campus this semester. We know that continuing to comply with these measures remains challenging as we approach the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 impacts at Johns Hopkins, but they remain vital in our ability to safely continue in-person academic, research, and other activities. 

Since the brief spike in cases at the beginning of February, we’ve seen a return to a very low number of COVID-19 cases occurring among Johns Hopkins affiliates. In addition, the number of new cases and test positivity rate have both continued to decline across Maryland over the last several weeks. 

Based on this improving situation, we believe we can begin modest modifications of our operating guidance in a safe manner. As a first step, we are announcing an immediate change to the limit on all undergraduate outdoor gatherings from 5 to 10 people. Students will soon see announcements for more outdoor events as the weather continues to improve. At the moment, the 5-person limit for indoor undergraduate gatherings and all of our other policies (including mandatory 3-times-a-week testing for undergraduates and others announced in our February 10 communication) will remain in place. If circumstances allow, we will make further modifications to our guidance in the upcoming weeks. 

Even so, the pandemic remains very serious, and we must all remain cautious as we continue to learn more about how the virus spreads within our community. Although the overall reduction in cases is encouraging, we are still seeing some concerning groups of cases connected with smaller gatherings or meals among undergraduates where masking and social distancing guidelines are not being followed consistently. When that occurs, we will continue to impose additional public health measures (such as targeted stay at home or additional COVID testing requirements). Additionally, we look to our undergraduates for full and active participation in the contact tracing process both to help us contain any groups of cases that arise and to provide the information we need to inform our COVID safety policies and procedures. 

Following our gathering limits does not eliminate the danger of COVID transmission—you must still follow all COVID safety protocols, including masking and physical distancing, even among roommates or suitemates. Eating or drinking in restaurants and bars is a particularly risky activity because it inevitably puts you in close, maskless contact with others indoors for an extended period of time, and we reiterate our strong urging that undergraduates not engage in those activities and get carryout or delivery instead. 

Thank you for your continued commitment and your adherence to the principles of the Johns Hopkins Social Compact. We remind you that if you have any concerns or witness behavior that could put our community at risk, please let us know through the LiveSafe app which remains the best way to report issues in real time and provides the option of anonymity. You may also call 844-SPEAK2US to report concerns. The university will continue to follow-up on all reports.  

We also know that the ongoing pandemic can take a real toll on all of us, and we urge you to reach out to the university’s resources to help, Student Wellness and mySupport for faculty and staff. 

Stay safe and be well, 

Sunil Kumar   

Alanna Shanahan   
Vice Provost for Student Affairs