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Johns Hopkins University loosens mask mandate

After previously announcing on Feb. 25 that it would maintain its indoor masking requirements, Johns Hopkins University has revised its COVID-19 protocols. Effective immediately, masks will now be optional for all students, staff, faculty and visitors who have received both their COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot, except in classrooms and other instructional spaces.  

Members of the campus community who are exempt from the school’s vaccine and booster policy must continue wearing masks, as will affiliates of the School of Medicine, who need to follow Johns Hopkins Medicine’s protocols.  

Those who must continue masking will still be required to wear one of the four types of facial coverings permitted by Hopkins: N95 masks, KN95 masks, KF94 masks or a combination of a cloth mask and a surgical mask. The university will continue to distribute N95 and KN95 masks, which are available at the campus’s asymptomatic testing locations. 

“Given the continued improvements in COVID trends and after additional consultation with our experts in public health and infectious disease, we are now prepared to relax our indoor masking policy for vaccinated affiliates at Johns Hopkins University,” campus officials said in a communication sent out on March 9. The decision was made due to community transmission continuing to decline, according to the communication. 

Baltimore city also dropped its indoor mask mandate on March 1. 

The announcement acknowledged that some “hold strong personal feelings about masking” and that masking is a highly effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19. It encouraged members of the campus community to continue masking if they wish to. 

The university said it may fully lift the mask mandate if the community’s seven-day case rate drops below 10 cases per 100,000 individuals. It also said it may reinstate previous masking requirements if cases rise significantly. 

Several other Maryland universities have made similar decisions in recent weeks, including the University of Maryland, College Park, Towson University, Salisbury University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the University of Baltimore, and Morgan State University. Most will continue requiring masks in classrooms and instructional settings, but Towson and UMB will not. 

These changes come as case rates statewide remain low following a massive surge brought on by the highly transmissible omicron variant of the virus.