Residents react to Temple students remaining in off-campus housing

City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told students to go home, contradicting guidance from Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Christopher Brigette, who lives on 21st and Diamond streets, stands on Diamond Street as he walks home on Sept. 7. | MILES WALL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With most classes online for the rest of the semester, some community residents disagree with Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley’s announcement that Temple University students should go home for the fall semester.

On Sept. 3, four days after classes were suspended for two weeks, President Richard Englert sent an email to students announcing 95 percent of in-person classes would be moved online for the rest of the semester. 

Farley urged Temple students to return home to stop the spread of COVID-19 in North Central on Thursday, The Temple News reported. The university is providing full housing and meal plan refunds to students who leave university housing by Sept. 13, The Temple News reported.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, urged universities on Sept. 3 to keep students on campus, which contradicted Farley’s advice from the same day. 

As of Sept. 7, Temple has recorded 350 positive COVID-19 cases, according to the university’s online dashboard. 

Nadira Williams, a home health aide who lives on 24th Street and Montgomery Avenue, said she felt compassion for Temple students facing a sudden move.

“It’s a lot because you pay to stay in your dorm or your room, wherever you choose to stay in Philadelphia, to go to your campus, and now you got to go all the way back out of state where you live,” Williams said.

Students living off campus, like Collin Haber, a senior musical theater major, also empathize with the decision on-campus students are facing. 

“I feel like [moving classes online] is for the best,” said Haber, who lives on 17th Street near Diamond. “It sucks for freshmen because they’re not getting through the experience. Like I said to my friend, ‘It is going to be uphill from here and the years to come, and this is the safest, best option right now.’”

Christopher Brigette, a resident who lives on 21st and Diamond streets and works at the AMC Broadstreet 7, said he was happy students are on campus, adding that staying will keep them from spreading the virus to their hometowns.

“I say, everybody should just stay in one place,” Brigette said. “If you’re here in Philly, stay here in Philly. If you’re out there, stay out there. Just relax. Stay where you are, and keep doing what you’re doing.”

Toluwase Thomas, a freshman communications major who lives on 12th Street near Montgomery, is nervous that students who are staying near campus are holding social gatherings. 

A sign hangs on a pole behind the Aramark Student Training and Recreation Complex, reminding students to take COVID-19 precautions, including wearing a mask, staying six feet apart and washing their hands, on Sept. 3. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

These gatherings put students like her with “invisible illnesses” at risk, she said.  

“I feel like the [city guidelines] should be a lot harsher, a lot stricter,” Thomas said. “I think if they start fining students for having parties or having large social gatherings, [students] will hold back, and not be the reason why these cases are going so high.”

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued guidance on Aug. 29 for all city university students to avoid social gatherings outside of their households. That night, Temple also instructed students to avoid any social gathering, The Temple News reported

George Mosley, who lives on 18th Street near Diamond and works as a waiter, said he had seen some “small gatherings,” but not large parties. 

“We would know because it’s, like, parades and parades of people walking down the street,” Mosley said. “Maybe small gatherings between friends, but I haven’t seen a party-party, because they usually go to like two o’clock in the morning.”

Contact tracing showed many of Temple’s COVID-19 cases come from students who live off campus, some with three or more roommates, and have been hosting social gatherings, Farley said on Sept. 1, The Temple News reported

In addition to avoiding gatherings, local residents also emphasized the need for everyone to wear face coverings. 

Shania Hightower, who lives at Diamond and Camac streets and is working on returning to school, said she has seen equal numbers of students and local residents walking without masks since the fall semester began. 

“They should keep the mask on more, only because they may have it when they don’t know,” Hightower said. 

Brigette also highlighted mask-wearing, as well as other precautions, students and residents could take to protect themselves and others.

“We really going to see somebody walking down the street right now,” Brigette said, pointing to a pair of maskless men walking down Diamond Street. “So that’s a big deal. Always wear a mask, hell, wear gloves. Always have hand sanitizer.”

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