Updated 12/22 at 4:27 p.m.
Temple University will hold its spring semester classes virtually through Jan. 21, except for essential in-person classes, as COVID-19 cases rise due to the contagious Omicron variant, wrote President Jason Wingard in an announcement to students and employees Wednesday afternoon.
Campus services like Student Health Services, dining halls, libraries, the Howard Gittis Student Center and the TECH Center will reopen as scheduled for the spring semester, wrote Provost Gregory Mandel, in an announcement to students following Wingard’s announcement.
Students living in residence halls must test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of their arrival, Wingard wrote.
Essential employees will return to campus on Jan. 3 and in-person work for other staff members will be at the discretion of their supervisor, Wingard wrote. Regular operations will resume on Jan. 24.
“The contagiousness of the omicron variant, intensely increasing national case numbers, and predictions for a significant post-holiday surge necessitates that we closely monitor trends and implement safety precautions to protect the Temple community,” Wingard wrote.
Temple joins an increasing list of local colleges and universities suspending in-person learning and introducing new mandates to combat the spread of COVID-19 due to the rise of the Omicron variant, a contagious new strain of the virus that was first identified in Philadelphia on Dec. 3 and accounts for nearly three-quarters of new cases nationwide, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
The University of Pennsylvania canceled in-person gatherings and moved final exams online on Dec. 9. Penn is requiring students and employees to receive their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 31, according to Penn’s website.
Drexel University will begin the first week of its winter quarter on Jan. 3 with remote instruction, according to Drexel’s website. Drexel is also requiring all students, faculty and staff to get a booster shot by the start of the winter term.
The University of the Arts is requiring eligible students to receive their booster dose by Jan. 10, and faculty to receive their booster dose two weeks before their return to campus, according to UArts’ website.
Temple did not announce plans to require students to receive booster shots but encouraged students to receive boosters if eligible.
As of Dec. 21, there are 117 active cases at Temple, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard.
Philadelphia reported 465 new cases for Dec. 21, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s case dashboard.
This week, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health began distributing nearly 24,000 free at-home COVID-19 testing kits at locations throughout the city.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden introduced several plans to combat the Omicron variant including distributing 500 million free COVID-19 test kits and providing assistance to hospitals overwhelmed by surges in patients.
During the holidays, the CDC recommends individuals get vaccinated, wear tightly-fitted masks indoors, avoid crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces and get tested before gathering with others.
Just more than 97 percent of Temple students and employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard.
More than 1 million Philadelphians are fully vaccinated and more than 206,000 have received a booster dose of the vaccine, according to the city’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.