From the Frontlines: Johns Hopkins University Goes Fully In-Person Amidst Its Greatest COVID Surge

COVID-19 cases among Johns Hopkins University students. Image credit: Johns Hopkins University Office of Communication

As Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is finishing its second week of the current semester, it has recorded 159 positive COVID cases among the student body, as compared to 29 cases in the first two weeks of the last semester. Many things are different between this semester and the last. Now there is twice-weekly testing; wearing N95, KN95 or double masking is required. Classes in large lecture halls without social distancing is allowed. In-person dining is run at half capacity, and dorm rooms are running at full capacity instead of at half capacity.

As the JHU administration (admins) were preparing for the spring semester implementing these changes, the student body was reporting its biggest surge; this past winter break, 52.8% of all positive COVID cases (997 cases) were recorded during those 33 days. And yet the admins felt it was safe to “resume high risk activities.” At most, the admins allowed teachers to have classes online or hybrid during the first two weeks. Now this is policy is ending.

For those who unfortunately got COVID upon returning to JHU, they have the now common experience dealing with the JHU’s COVID management system. As one first-year student reported, “After going to classes and seeing friends, my PCR test came back positive. I was assigned a case manager. I was put into a paid hotel room for isolation. But JHU’s care stopped at the hotel door. My case manager would call once a day. Otherwise, I was completely cut off. I spent those five days filled with anxiety about missed lectures, class work, and above all, if I infected people I encountered before isolation. Now that I am out of isolation and asymptomatic, the school has deemed it safe for me to not be tested for the next 90 days. JHU cares more to have me on campus acting as if things are back to normal when they aren’t.”

The University reports that they follow CDC, state, and local public health guidelines. This is an example of these guidelines in action. As Omicron began its surge around the world, the people in power threw science and public health out of the window, believing going back to normal is most important. JHU shows us that we can’t depend on them, but have to rely on ourselves, to keep our health a priority on campus.