Georgetown University will begin the spring semester as scheduled Jan. 12 with temporary virtual instruction through Jan. 30.
In-person instruction is planned to resume Jan. 31. Students are permitted to return to campus as planned beginning Jan. 11, according to a Dec. 29 email sent to campus community members from University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
The decision comes in anticipation of a surge in early January of COVID-19 cases in the United States caused by the omicron variant, according to the email.
“Given that the surge in cases associated with the Omicron variant in the United States is projected to coincide with our return for the spring semester, we are adjusting our approach for the first few weeks of the semester,” the email reads.
The highly transmissible omicron variant, which accounts for nearly 59% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, has spread rapidly through the country and the world. Despite high vaccination rates, Washington, D.C., has the highest risk level for COVID-19 infection in the country with an average of 2,055 cases per day for the past seven days or 291 cases per 100,000 people.
Prior to returning to campus for the spring semester, all campus community members will be required to test for COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status, according to an email sent to students from University Provost Robert M. Groves on Dec. 29.
Additionally, main campus community spaces will operate in reduced capacities. Dining locations will operate on a grab-and-go basis, Yates Field House will remain closed through Jan. 30 and libraries will open to campus community members only while enforcing six feet of social distancing, according to the email.
Campus community members are advised to wear high-grade face coverings such as N95, KN95 or KF94 instead of cloth masks, according to the university’s Public Health and University Operations page.
Free high-grade medical masks will be available at most campus buildings and will be issued to campus employees from their respective departments, according to the page.
Additionally, the Biden Administration has made free high-grade face masks available at federally qualified community health centers across the country including Whitman-Walker Research and the Community of Hope Marie Reed Health Center located in the District. Free masks have also been made available at food banks and food pantries across the country.
The university saw its biggest one-day increase of COVID-19 cases among campus community members Dec. 14 after 34 individuals tested positive, increasing the positivity rate from 0.77% in the previous week to 3.08%, the highest to date.
In response to the spike in cases, the university immediately adopted new COVID-19 safety measures at the end of the fall semester. The steps included adjusting all dining locations on campus to grab-and-go operations, canceling or relocating university-sponsored events and closing Yates Field House.
Georgetown also announced Dec. 14 that community members must submit proof of a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot on or before Jan. 21. Individuals who are not yet eligible to get a booster shot will receive a deadline extension until they are able.
The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) plans to meet with university administrators before the return to campus to discuss the semester transition, according to GUSA Chief of Staff Genevieve Greneir (MSB ’24).
Other universities in D.C. have opted to postpone a spring return to campus. Howard University plans to delay in-person operations from Jan. 3 to Jan. 18. The plan comes after the university saw a student positivity rate of 35% for the week of Dec. 10 despite a student vaccination rate of 99%.
George Washington University will delay in-person operations until Jan. 18, although students will be allowed to return to campus prior to the start of virtual classes Jan. 10. Additionally, all students are required to submit proof of a COVID-19 booster shot by Jan. 10, three weeks earlier than the university’s initial deadline of Feb. 1.
Campus COVID-19 safety protocols may be adjusted in accordance to public health conditions, according to DeGioia’s Dec. 29 email.
“As we continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, we will share any further updates to our plans as soon as they become available,” the email reads.