To the Temple community:
As you know, the university reported 58 active COVID-19 cases on Friday. As we have received additional test results over the weekend, we will soon update our dashboard to show that we now have 103 active cases after conducting more than 5,000 tests in the last two weeks. Most of these students testing positive are asymptomatic; a small number have mild to moderate flu-like symptoms.
Any increase is concerning, though not necessarily alarming. In this instance, we appear to be seeing new cases that result from small social gatherings happening off campus. This trend prompted conversations with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) and resulted in the revised guidance issued by PDPH on Saturday. The new data also prompted the university's leadership to implement the flexibility embedded in the comprehensive plans we developed earlier this year. After reviewing this new information, we are instituting a two-week "pause" for in-person classes, and an extensive collaboration with PDPH to test and contact trace student cases and minimize further spread.
What this means for our students taking in-person classes is that those classes will go online starting Monday, Aug. 31, and will continue online through Friday, Sept. 11. Only those classes designated as essential by the dean of a school or college will be held in person during this period and students in those classes will be notified directly by their school or college. Classes which are already online will not be impacted by this decision.
An assessment of the situation will be made during this period to determine the best course moving forward. We are hopeful, of course, that we will be able to return to the full hybrid program in place at the start of the semester, but any such decision will be driven by the data and public health guidance available at the time.
As ever, the most important thing is the health and safety of our community. Anyone who has symptoms should immediately contact Student Health Services and get an appointment to be tested. PDPH agreed to help us staff a testing operation Monday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the practice facility at the Aramark STAR Complex on Main Campus.
Here are some essential reminders and information.
- It is vital that all students continue to follow Temple's four public health pillars, particularly properly wearing a face covering. You should wear a face covering on campus and anywhere in Philadelphia—that is especially true for those of you living in the neighborhoods of North Philadelphia. I know many of you are already following this practice and I thank you for your diligence. Keep up the good work.
- I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough: You should also be doing everything possible to avoid social gatherings, regardless of size, that bring you into contact with persons outside of your household. Introducing new people into your household, even in very small groups, is increasingly being identified as a cause of infections.
- You should also strongly consider canceling travel plans, including those around Labor Day weekend.
- All students who have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should immediately quarantine for 14 days.
- Student support services will remain operational, such as Charles Library, the TECH Center and the Student Center. The university’s residence halls and food services will continue to operate.
- Faculty with questions about this shift should contact their department chairs and deans for additional guidance.
- Those employees who are currently working from home should continue to do so, subject to supervisor approval.
- Those employees working on campus should continue to do so until notified otherwise by your supervisor.
We have established a Helpline to take your questions and offer the best advice we have at this time. Please call 215-204-4400, starting Monday, Aug. 31 at 8:30 a.m., if you have additional questions or concerns.
Since the very first reports of COVID-19 touched our lives, Temple has consistently held to one position: We will do the best we can to keep our community healthy and safe, while ensuring our students receive an excellent education and continue progress to graduation. The steps we are announcing today are driven by the desire to keep our campus safe and open.
I want to thank all of our students, faculty and administrative staff members for your cooperation so far. We are counting on your continued diligence as we meet the challenges ahead. Rest assured that we will continue to base our decisions on data and the advice of medical and health professionals. We are in this together, so we can be together.
Richard M. Englert