In a move that reflects widespread progress in the fight against COVID-19, Northeastern University will lift its indoor mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals and physical distance requirements for everyone at the end of this month, in accordance with updated guidance from state and federal public health officials.
Effective Saturday, May 29, the university will no longer require fully vaccinated students, faculty, staff, visitors, or vendors on its Massachusetts campuses to wear masks indoors—including residence halls, classrooms, dining halls, offices, recreation centers, COVID-19 testing centers, and campus buildings.
Also on May 29, Northeastern will lift its physical distancing requirements for indoor spaces on its Massachusetts campuses. In classrooms, students and faculty can take advantage of the full occupancy of classrooms starting July 6, the start of the Summer II session, as the Summer I session is already in progress and will maintain the current distancing guidelines.
“This new guidance is one more step toward fully reopening our Massachusetts campuses this summer,” said Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, in a message to the campus community. “It represents positive news that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, and cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.”
The new university guidelines closely align with those announced earlier this week by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston’s acting mayor Kim Janey. Per the governor’s announcement on removing all restrictions on businesses in Massachusetts on May 29, Northeastern will lift the current 50 percent density cap across all administrative offices on the Boston, Burlington and Dedham campuses, effective May 29.
The university announced plans to return to a normal in-person fall with campus activities resuming. All students returning to Northeastern’s campuses in the fall are required to be vaccinated by the first day of classes.
The relaxed distancing and mask-wearing guidelines have a few key exceptions: People are still required to wear masks anywhere city, state, or federal law, or individual businesses require. Massachusetts guidance still requires people to wear masks on public transportation, elementary, middle, and high schools, and in healthcare settings. On the Boston campus, that includes University Health and Counseling Services and the childcare center.
“We also understand that people may have different comfort levels when it comes to removing their masks, and we respect anyone’s decision to continue wearing a mask even if fully vaccinated,” added Henderson.
Following guidance for large gatherings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people will also have to wear masks for events held in large university venues such as Matthews Arena and Blackman Auditorium.
Finally, individuals who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to wear masks indoors. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-shot vaccine (such as those by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech) or two weeks after a single-shot vaccine (such as the one by Johnson & Johnson).
The university will use the honor system in enforcing the new protocols for fully vaccinated people—it won’t require people to show proof of vaccination before removing their masks indoors.
“We’ve trusted our community to ‘Protect the Pack’ and our community has demonstrated its willingness to follow protocols that protect others’ health and safety,” Henderson wrote in his message.
More than 351 million vaccine doses have been administered across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. On the Boston campus, data show the current weekly average positive test rate at 0.02 percent with 0 cases on most days. The university has administered more than a million tests since it began its robust testing protocol.
Students, faculty, and staff in each of Northeastern’s campus locations should continue following city, state, provincial or federal guidelines on mask-wearing and physical distancing. For more information, please review the university’s COVID-19 FAQ page.
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