Workplace flexibility, increased testing, and modified isolation and quarantine in January
December 31, 2021
Dear Johns Hopkins University Community:
As we continue to plan for return to in-person learning on Jan. 24 for the spring 2022 semester and navigate challenges posed by the omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, we write to announce some changes to Johns Hopkins University’s operations and to reinforce the importance of our ongoing requirements and guidelines.
Importantly, we want you to know that although case counts continue to rise in our area and among our affiliates, we continue to see no transmission of COVID-19 on campus or in our workplaces when our rules and guidance are followed. Nonetheless, we are mindful of COVID spread in the community and of the strain on our dedicated health care colleagues.
Key elements of our updated and existing protocols and policies include:
- Increased testing of all students to two times/week; continued availability of testing for faculty and staff. To augment early detection within our community, we are increasing our current mandatory testing requirements for undergraduate and graduate students who will be on campus to twice a week, effective Jan. 4. Tests must be conducted at least 48 hours apart. Unvaccinated faculty, staff, and post-doctoral fellows with an approved exception will still be required to test twice a week. Voluntary asymptomatic testing on demand will remain available for vaccinated faculty, staff, and post-doctoral fellows. School of Medicine affiliates will continue to follow JHM policies.
- In-person flexibility through January 23, including for staff. For the next few weeks, as we institute our booster mandate and get beyond the period of increased community exposures from holiday gatherings and travel, we are flexing a number of in-person operations, such as the shift of most undergraduate Intersession courses to an online format as announced last week. Until the beginning of the spring semester, departments or divisions at their discretion may also offer staff increased flexibility for hybrid or remote work. During this period, the university will remain open for all planned research and clinical needs, to support those students who are on campus, and to make necessary in-person preparations for the spring semester. But to the extent that staff can perform some or all of their work remotely, subject to departmental or divisional approvals, they are welcome to do so. Normal workplace modality will resume on Jan. 24.
- Shortened isolation to five days for individuals who test positive and have no symptoms; and modified protocols for quarantine and testing of close contacts.
- Isolating after testing positive. Those who have tested positive must have no symptoms at five days in order to leave isolation; otherwise, they must remain in isolation until they are free of symptoms.
- Quarantining after exposure.
- Those who are vaccinated and boosted who have had a close contact do not need to quarantine.
- Those who are unvaccinated or vaccinated but not yet boosted and have had a close contact must quarantine for five days.
- Anyone with a close contact—whether vaccinated/boosted or quarantining—will need to test negative at five days.
If you test positive, you must be cleared by the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center, the Student Health and Wellness Center, or University Health Services to return to work, classes, or other on-campus activities. School of Medicine affiliates will continue to follow JHM policies.
This change follows recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is made in consultation with our own experts in public health and infectious disease. In light of better developed evidence about the period during which COVID is most transmissible as well as our own extensive measures to prevent the virus’ spread (e.g., near universal vaccination, required masking, increased surveillance testing, and enhanced ventilation), we believe this change appropriately balances our need to protect our community with a desire not to force our faculty, staff, students, and post-doctoral fellows to isolate or quarantine longer than necessary.
- Continued indoor masking. The consistent use of face coverings is even more important given evolving information about the transmissibility of the omicron variant. Proper mask wearing (covering both the mouth and nose, fitting snugly against the side of the face, and secured with ties or ear loops) is required at all times when indoors, with limited exceptions (e.g., when in an office by yourself with a closed door, in residence hall dorm rooms/apartments/suites only with roommates, or momentarily for drinks/snacks).
- Mandatory boosters and new booster clinics. Please get ahead of JHU’s requirement that all eligible individuals get a booster by Feb. 1. Full vaccination including a booster is highly protective against severe illness and hospitalization. Get your booster shot as soon as possible—six months after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or two months after your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A series of booster clinics will be held on our campuses beginning next week. Details about times and locations and instructions for registering will be available soon at the JHU Coronavirus Information website. We encourage those who can get a booster on their own during the winter break to do so and to upload proof of your vaccination to the Vaccine Management System. We also encourage faculty and staff to take advantage of the booster clinics on campus early this month so that we can complete as many booster vaccinations as possible before students return in large numbers.
- Town hall. On January 5 at noon, we will hold a town hall to answer your questions about these policies or any other COVID-related topic. A link to view the town hall will be available on covidinfo.jhu.edu.
As always, our ability to safely carry out our mission of education, research, and service to the fullest extent depends on your efforts to keep yourself, your colleagues, and our Baltimore neighbors safe. It is crucial that you remain diligent in masking, monitoring yourself for symptoms, following our testing requirements, avoiding large gatherings—particularly indoors—and staying up-to-date with your vaccination.
Fortunately, we continue to see no evidence of transmission in our classroom or laboratory spaces, and our plans to begin the spring semester in person on Jan. 24 remain unchanged. As always, we will closely monitor conditions, and we will not hesitate to enact additional protections or to change course if needed, in consultation with the Health Advisory Group, the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee, and the Student Advisory Committee.
We thank you again for your diligence and care in maintaining good public health practices, and we look forward to seeing you on campus again in the new year.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration
Interim Vice President for Human Resources
Professor and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Professor, Vice Provost, and Chief Risk Officer