Johns Hopkins University envisions campus operations being "substantially back to normal" this fall and plans to welcome students, faculty, and staff back for a broad resumption of in-person classes and activities, with necessary public health safeguards in place, university leaders said today.
Given recent increases in COVID-19 vaccine availability and distribution, the university intends for vaccination to be a critical component to its campus safety plan—all students who plan to be on campus in the fall will be required to be vaccinated or have a religious or health exemption; faculty and staff are also strongly urged to be vaccinated before returning to campus.
The university is in the process of establishing a system for JHU affiliates to register their vaccination status, which will aid decisions about the appropriate level of public health protections over the summer and fall. More information on the registration process will be available in the coming weeks.
"Our plans are predicated on continuing public health strategies to promote a safe campus and community," JHU President Ronald J. Daniels, Provost Sunil Kumar, and Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Mary Miller wrote in a message shared with the Hopkins community today.
"Ensuring that the overwhelming percentage of our community's population is vaccinated will greatly reduce the risk of the virus's spread on our campuses and will also protect our neighbors in Baltimore."
The United States is now vaccinating more than 4 million people a day, and more than 100 million Americans have already received at least one vaccine dose. Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced anyone age 16 or older in Maryland will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning April 12.
JHU will seek to facilitate opportunities for students who are unable to get vaccinated in their home jurisdictions to be vaccinated as soon as they arrive on campus. The university is also working to make on-campus vaccination available for all members of the Hopkins community.
A town hall discussion on fall campus operations will be held next week, and members of the university community are encouraged to submit questions or feedback online at any time. More information will be available in the updated JHU Return to Campus Guide, expected to be completed by the end of April, with additional details to be decided based on public health conditions at the end of the summer.
Much of the university has operated virtually since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, though a limited number of staff and faculty have returned to in-person work and the majority of students are back in Baltimore for the spring semester, even with many courses being conducted in online or hybrid modalities.
As university leaders look to the fall semester, they anticipate that many in-person activities can safely resume, including:
Academics: For undergraduates, most classes previously taught in person are expected to return to that modality. Large (50 person-plus) classes will generally be taught in online/remote modality or broken into smaller sections for public health, and in some cases, pedagogical, reasons. The Peabody Institute may implement special protocols for some performance classes as needed. Attendance by students and faculty will be required in programs that are ordinarily conducted in person, except in cases where individuals receive accommodations through the Office of Institutional Equity or Student Disability Services. Program directors and advising services will work with international students who continue to experience disruptions in their travel plans, but hybrid options will not be available in all classes.
Student housing and dining: Density in residence halls will increase to near-normal capacity; the residency requirement will remain in place for first-year students and be reinstated for sophomores. The university expects to resume in-person dining on campus in a de-densified environment.
Staff return to campus: The university expects the majority of staff and faculty to be back on campus in person by mid-August for the start of the semester, and opportunities to return earlier in the summer will be available for those who choose to do so. Exceptions will be made in cases where staff members have received accommodations through the Office of Institutional Equity or had pre-COVID alternative work arrangements. Additionally, as the university considers the future of work and the policies that guide it, a staff working group will be convened to collaborate with deans, staff members, and consultative bodies such as the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee to develop guidelines and templates for various work arrangements. Those will be shared those with the JHU community in the next few weeks.
"Regular in-person contact among faculty, students, and staff is fundamental to the vitality of our university," Daniels, Kumar, and Miller wrote. "The presence of our staff in Baltimore is also critical to our role as an economic anchor in the city, and we are anxious to reconvene as a community as quickly and safely as we can. We also recognize that our collective return may look different from our past 'normal' and must incorporate the lessons learned over the past 12 months about balancing work, home life, and wellbeing."
COVID testing and other health and safety protocols
As the fall semester approaches, the university will continue to follow the best advice of public health experts. At this time, JHU plans for:
- The continuation of enhanced cleaning and increased air exchange and filtration 24/7 in all facilities
- Continued capacity for high-volume asymptomatic COVID testing in the fall, with details on required testing frequency to be determined
- Continued testing and contact tracing through the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center for those with symptoms or meaningful contact with a COVID-positive person
- Availability of isolation housing for undergraduates
- Use of face coverings with specific guidelines determined by public health conditions closer to the fall start
- Required flu vaccination
"We know that the months ahead will present further challenges, and our return to greater in-person activity will require adjustments—for us as individuals and as an institution—as we renew the connections to one another in this new environment that are core to our university's mission now and for the future," Daniels, Kumar, and Miller wrote.
"We appreciate everything you continue to do to keep one another and our Baltimore community safe and thriving, and we look forward to seeing you all back on campus this fall."