Update on the Homewood undergraduate COVID cluster

February 4, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,  

Since our communication to you yesterday morning, the university has continued to manage and investigate a concerning cluster of COVID cases among Homewood undergraduates. We have had 58 positive cases confirmed in this 6,000-student population since Tuesday afternoon (27 since our last message), compared with seven positive cases in the comparable period last week. We are have taken immediate steps to ensure these students are properly isolated and to perform contact tracing to identify and notify others who may be at risk. We also imposed additional testing requirements on specific subsets of our students, completing 2,600 COVID tests yesterday, and have put in place capacity for continued accelerated testing. 

Importantly, all evidence continues to point to social gatherings off-campus last weekend as the most likely contributor to this cluster, and we are also taking a number of significant steps to limit student activity and improve student compliance with public health guidelines. In this regard, we want to reinforce to our undergraduate students in particular: 

Your full and honest cooperation with contact tracers is crucial to our ability to control this recent spike in cases. If you are sick, tell these confidential tracers whom you were in contact with and where those interactions happened. As a reminder, contact tracing is wholly separate from the student conduct process—contact tracers cannot and do not share any individual information with the university as part of a disciplinary process.  

We have extended through Friday, Feb. 5, the suspension of in-person Homewood undergraduate classes and laboratory research, as well as other in-person activities for Homewood undergraduates regardless of where they take place. We make this decision not because of a concern specific to classroom or research laboratory activity but to provide additional time for us to fully assess and intervene against the scope of the current spike in cases, including repeat saliva testing for as many students as possible and genetic testing of positive samples.   

We will communicate about our plans for next week on Sunday, and, as always, the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and Baltimore neighbors will be our foremost priority.  

To that end, we are instituting the following precautions:   

  • All undergraduates are now required to get tested three times a week, effective Friday, Feb. 5, until further notice.  
  • No gatherings of any size are allowed for undergraduates, on campus or off, indoors or outdoors, through Monday morning at 8 a.m. 
  • Student athletes and residents of Charles Commons must be tested for COVID every day through at least Saturday and must maintain their self-quarantine, on and off campus, through Monday morning at 8 a.m.  

Any violations of these requirements or other university COVID policies will be subject to the Student Conduct Code disciplinary process, and as we have demonstrated previously, we will not hesitate to take action if it is necessary to protect the community.   

We know that maintaining COVID safety practices at all times is difficult, but we cannot stress enough how important it is that we all do so consistently and conscientiously. When you make poor decisions, you don’t just put yourself at risk, you put at risk the health and safety of our entire community.  

We ask that you read and commit to the principles outlined in the Hopkins Social Compact, and in particular that you remember:   

  • Our mandatory testing program is a crucial measure to detect and contain potential clusters of COVID cases, but it is not protective. A negative test does not mean you can relax your guard against the virus.  
  • The temporary ban on gatherings must be strictly followed. Getting together with even a small group of friends to watch the Super Bowl is not allowed. When the restriction on gatherings is relaxed, you must still wear a mask and maintain physical distance from others at all times.  
  • If you have any potential COVID symptoms at all—fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, acute loss of taste or smell, headache, diarrhea/vomiting, new fatigue/muscle aches or runny nose/congestion—call the Johns Hopkins COVID call center (833-546-7546). Don’t write off your symptoms as minor, or assume they’re allergies or a cold. Call the JHCCC and get screened.  
  • If you see others who aren’t following JHU’s COVID safety rules, please report it. You may notify the university by submitting anonymous concerns via the JHU hotline 844-SPEAK2US; through an online reporting form; or by contacting Health, Safety and Environment at HSEinfo@jhmi.edu or 410-516-8798. For live, immediate response, also consider using the LiveSafe app to report things directly to Campus Safety & Security (with options for anonymous reporting).  

We hope to resume in-person activities and classes for Homewood undergraduates soon, but we need your help. We can have a safe semester together if we all stay focused on protecting ourselves and each other. Please do your part to make that possible for yourself, your colleagues, and your classmates.  

Sunil Kumar  
Provost  

Alanna Shanahan  
Vice Provost for Student Affairs  

Kevin Shollenberger  
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being