Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to students, faculty, and staff on November 9, 2020.
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a challenging fall for many of us, and as we get closer to Thanksgiving, the desire to relax and celebrate with family and friends is a natural one. Unfortunately, getting the virus under control remains an elusive pursuit, with case numbers on the rise in many areas. As we all look forward to the potential for much more extensive campus life during the spring semester, we encourage you to take to heart the best public health advice: Continue to remain physically distanced from others, avoid large gatherings, and be diligent about using masks, washing hands, and monitoring for symptoms.
If you are among the faculty and staff with on-campus responsibilities, or a student who has chosen to live in Baltimore this year, we urge you to avoid traveling outside the area for the holiday. We know this may be difficult, but it is essential for the safety of our university community and our neighbors in Baltimore that we do not create situations that increase the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19. In addition, travel carries the risk that you will face quarantine requirements at your destination and/or upon return.
The greatest risk of spreading COVID-19 comes from convening large groups, and so it is important to keep any gatherings small. In addition, we reiterate the university’s guidelines that participants wear masks, observe 6 feet of distancing, and, where possible, stay outside. It is best to keep to your regular group, such as your immediate family or a “bubble” of friends (those you see frequently) who have been restricting their contact with others.
Another important step in protecting your health, and that of our community, is to get your flu vaccination. Starting Nov. 20, proof of flu vaccination or an approved exemption will be required for students, faculty, and staff who are on or planning to be on our campuses.
Employees and students have several options to get a free flu shot—including by taking a voucher to Walgreens, which will will automatically inform Johns Hopkins that you have been vaccinated. To avoid any possible delays in transmission of your record, we recommend that you obtain documentation at the pharmacy at the time of vaccination. Employees can upload it here, and students should email it to their respective student health center. Details are on the HR website for employees and on the Wellness website for students.
Any affiliate in the Baltimore area who feels ill or is concerned about exposure to the coronavirus should contact the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Call Center (JHCCC) at 833-546-7546 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week. Representatives will discuss next steps, arrange for testing if needed, and manage the process to identify and assist people who may have had contact with someone who tests positive. It is important to provide accurate information about possible contacts. The JHCCC staff is focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and will not report individuals for disciplinary action.
For your reference, the JHCCC, campus testing locations, and the student health centers are closed on Nov. 26 and 27 for Thanksgiving, but students can reach a nurse on call at 410-955-3250 (East Baltimore schools) or 410-516-8270 (all other schools).
Our Bloomberg School of Public Health has additional advice for safely celebrating the winter holidays. As the authors note, this pandemic will not be over anytime soon, so we need to collectively navigate how to have the safest possible experiences with friends and family. We trust that everyone will make choices that minimize risk and prioritize protecting our communities both near and far.
We are heartened by how seriously our community has taken its responsibility to keep each other and our Baltimore neighbors safe. Thanks to your efforts, we have seen no significant outbreaks among the students who are in Baltimore this semester and no known transmission among those working in our labs. It is that kind of diligence that gives us cautious optimism that we will be able to come together again for spring semester.
Stay safe, be well, and we hope to see you in January.
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being