Like any warm day, crowds of students gathered on Beury Beach, enjoying the sun as temperatures reached the 70s on Monday.
But as students return from Spring Break, they, along with Temple University faculty and administrators, are grappling with questions surrounding how the worldwide spread of COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, will affect the rest of their semester.
“People have been talking and they’re preparing for something, and everyone is like ‘Oh, they’re going to cancel’ or ‘Oh, we are going to have online classes for the rest of the semester,’” said Olga Ramirez, a sophomore social work major. “So I’m like, which one is it?”
Camryn Cobos, a freshman political science and communication studies major, said she is not concerned about being on campus in light of COVID-19 but wonders what will happen.
“I’m not nervous,” Cobos said. “I’m just confused as to what’s next.”
Though no one at Temple is presumed to have COVID-19, the university has imposed a slew of travel restrictions and changes to its study abroad programs to protect students and slow the virus’ potential spread.
Students and professors are also preparing for the possibility of classes moving online, and some university departments are preparing to offer their services remotely.
As of Monday evening, there have been 113,800 COVID-19 cases reported worldwide, the New York Times reported. Several hundreds of positive cases were confirmed nationwide. There are 10 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, including seven in Montgomery County, one in Delaware County, one in Wayne County and one in Monroe County, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
New Jersey has reported 11 presumed positive cases, including one in Cherry Hill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Philadelphia health officials are investigating five people for possible cases, CBS3 reported.
Here’s what you need to know about the virus and the measures Temple, other universities and health officials have taken to combat its spread.
WHAT IS COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a part of the coronavirus family, which causes respiratory tract diseases and illnesses. Symptoms of the virus include having a fever, coughing and having difficulty breathing, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease was first discovered in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019 and is believed to have started in a poultry and seafood market, the New York Times reported.
The CDC advises people with symptoms to contact a health care professional if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, live in an area or have recently traveled from an area with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Recent reports say the incubation period is five days, meaning it could take five days for symptoms to appear. Still, a person may not show symptoms and be contagious, therefore people should self-isolate for 14 days.
To avoid the virus, do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose, avoid close contact with people who are sick and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water, the CDC advises.
Students who traveled to any area where there are cases of COVID-19 should monitor how they are feeling and consult Student Health Services or their doctor if they begin to develop symptoms, said Krys Johnson, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor at Temple.
Those who are not experiencing symptoms should still disinfect common areas like refrigerator, cabinet and door handles, Johnson added. The CDC also advises people to disinfect laptops and phone screens.
“My grandma is convinced I’m going to get coronavirus from Temple, so I Lysoled my entire apartment,” said Jessie Lonon, a sophomore horticulture major. “Cloroxed everything, cleaned door handles, doorknobs, bathrooms, windows, everything, cleaned the sheets, even cleaned my carpet after my landlord gives a showing.”
Students returning from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Italy have been advised to self-quarantine and stay away from Main Campus for 14 days.
Temple suspended university-affiliated travel to Italy, China, South Korean and all other locations to which the U.S. Department of State has advised against travel. Student Health Services is also monitoring students who are abroad, said Mark Denys, the director of Student Health Services.
Temple Rome has been suspended, and after moving classes online on March 2, Temple Japan will continue to host online classes this week before re-evaluating the situation.
On Monday, President Richard Englert and Provost JoAnne Epps announced that Temple faculty have been advised to prepare to transition in-person classes to online in case the university cancels in-person meetings.
This week, Temple’s Center for Advancement of Teaching is holding workshops on Zoom, a video messaging application, and working with professors to transition their courses online, said Stephanie Ives, the university’s dean of students. The Fox Online and Digital Learning department is also holding daily training sessions to help faculty learn how to use Zoom, wrote Debbie Campbell, the senior vice dean at the Fox School of Business, in an email to The Temple News.
The College of Public Health is recording class lectures and making them available to students if they miss class because they are quarantining themselves, Johnson said. Many faculty in the business school are doing the same, Campbell said.
Additionally, several university offices that offer one-on-one services to students, like Tuttleman Counseling Services, the Student Success Center and academic advising offices, are considering how they can offer their services remotely, Ives said.
At a Temple Student Government town hall on Monday, Ives asked students in attendance to raise their hands if their professors had discussed the possibility of classes moving online. More than half of the approximately 100 in attendance raised their hands.
Sadie Woodring, a senior biology major, said one of her professors changed her attendance policy in light of COVID-19.
“She was very strict on only allowing the two absences and took attendance every time, and now it’s, ‘Don’t come if you’re sick,’” Woodring said.
Other universities, like Princeton University, the University of Washington and Columbia University have temporarily moved classes online to prevent the spread of COVID-19, several news outlets reported.
Temple Athletics has not changed any scheduled events, said Larry Doughtery, the university’s senior associate athletic director. The NCAA has not recommended canceling athletic events, according to a March 6 statement from the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel.
STATE, WORLD RESPONSE
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a declaration of disaster emergency on Friday to increase funding for state agencies responding to COVID-19, The Temple News reported. Both New Jersey and New York have declared states of emergencies due to cases, as well, NBC4 reported.
Simmons Elementary School, Neshaminy High School, Buckingham Friends School, Henderson High School, Cheltenham School District schools and the Lower Merion School District have temporarily closed as a precaution, CBS3 reported.
Around the world, Italy announced travel restrictions, Iran suspended flights to Europe, and the United States warned citizens against cruise travel, the Washington Post reported.
In the university-wide announcement, Englert wrote that the university’s top goal is to keep students safe while maintaining its high-quality education.
“We also want to tell you what medical experts have repeatedly told us: This is not a time for panic, but for preparation in order to make well-informed decisions,” Englert wrote.
Madison Karas, Bibiana Correa and Colin Evans contributed reporting.