This story was updated Aug. 11 to reflect recent changes in Baltimore City's masking policies.
Given the rise in COVID cases in Maryland associated with the delta variant, Johns Hopkins University is reinstating its mandate that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors, effective Thursday, Aug. 5.
The university is also resuming restrictions on indoor eating. Eating meals in indoor shared spaces is restricted to those areas where 6-foot distance can be maintained. Momentary unmasking for drinks or snacks remains permitted. The School of Medicine resumed its indoor masking requirement on July 30, per Johns Hopkins Medicine policies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a resumption of masking even for those who have been vaccinated in communities where the incidence of COVID exceeds 50 or more new cases per 100,000 people or where the positivity rate is greater than 8% during a seven-day period, and Maryland has now crossed that threshold.
"We are hopeful that this increase in cases will abate in the coming weeks, but our cautious approach to protecting our campus community and our Baltimore neighbors warrants this added precaution," wrote Stephen Gange, professor and executive vice provost for academic affairs; Jon Links, professor, vice provost, and chief risk officer; and Jane Schlegel, vice president and chief administrative officer in an email message to the Johns Hopkins community on Wednesday.
The university's plans for an in-person fall semester, including a broad return of staff to in-person work, remain unchanged. After consultation with JHU's Health Advisory Council, the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee, and others, leaders said they are confident that masking and restrictions on indoor eating, combined with the vaccination mandate, will improve measures to keep the Johns Hopkins community safe and prevent transmission to other vulnerable populations, those who have approved vaccine exceptions, and children under 12 years old, who are not yet eligible for COVID vaccines.
"Vaccination remains the most important step you can take to keep yourself and your family safe," Gange, Links, and Schlegel said in their message. "While recent data suggests that the delta variant can be transmitted by and among people who have been vaccinated, the COVID vaccines remain remarkably effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. … Our goal remains to reach as close as possible to 100% vaccination within our community, and we will follow up with those who have not yet documented their vaccination."
Johns Hopkins University has required all faculty, staff, and students to have documented their full vaccination or to have applied for an exception on medical, religious, or pregnancy grounds as of Aug. 1 through the Vaccine Management System. More than 80% have done so—exceeding the general population.
Specifically, the following operational changes are enacted beginning Aug. 5:
Indoor face coverings are universally mandated across campus except in the following situations:
- In single-occupancy offices and shared office locations where 6-foot distancing can be maintained
- In residence hall dorm rooms/suites/apartments, only with roommates
The Baltimore City mask mandate provides an exception when eating. Anywhere on campus, momentary unmasking for drinks/snacks remains permitted. Also permitted are meals outdoors without distancing/masking restrictions and in indoor spaces where a 6-foot distance from other people can be consistently maintained. Eating in cubicles and shared offices with 6-foot distancing is, therefore, permitted, but masks are required when not eating. Facilities staff are working on establishing areas across campus for de-densified dining.
University-sponsored events on campus may provide only pre-packaged, grab-and-go food to be taken away to eat outdoors or in physically distanced areas indoors. Sit-down meals, buffets, and platters at these events are suspended. These guidelines also apply to off-campus events anywhere in Maryland and D.C.; local and venue rules apply in other areas.
"We recognize that masking in the workplace may be inconvenient, but we believe the benefits of returning together as a community in pursuit of our common mission outweigh that discomfort,' said Gange, Links, and Schlegel. "As always, your health and safety remain our top priorities."