Temple students return to residence halls with optimism

Students were required to get tested for COVID-19 within 24 hours of their arrival.

Temple University students moved back into on-campus housing on Jan. 22. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As Ann Marie Paul and her parents loaded a cart full of bags, water jugs and dorm essentials, she felt excited to be back on Main Campus for the Spring 2022 semester.  

“I was thrown for a loop when we suddenly weren’t able to move back for the previous two weeks, but I’m hopeful that things will keep getting better,” said Paul, a junior construction engineering technology major.

As COVID-19 cases rose nationwide, Temple University pivoted to virtual instruction for the first two weeks of the semester and delayed move-in for students in university housing. With in-person classes resuming on Jan. 24, students are eager to be back on campus but remain concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 at the university. 

Students must upload proof of testing negative for COVID-19 to the Patient Health Portal within 24 hours of arriving at their on-campus housing, according to an announcement from Gregory Mandel, senior vice president and provost, on Dec. 31. 

Paul feels safer returning to campus knowing nobody in her building, Temple Towers, has COVID-19. However, she wishes the university would mandate testing for all students returning to campus, not just those in residence halls. 

After starting the semester at home in Morristown, New Jersey, Hala Samman was relieved to move back into Morgan Hall South.

“I’m still not really used to online learning, and it’s not very good for me, and just doing it from my bed felt weird,” said Samman, a freshman architecture major. 

Samman took an at-home COVID-19 test before moving in and got a second one at Mitten Hall. She feels safe living with her three roommates, all of whom are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said. 

“We all got our boosters, we all tested negative, so I think it will be okay,” Samman added.

Temple required all students and employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 15, unless they were granted medical or religious exemptions. Besides requiring vaccines and negative tests, Samman feels Temple should require booster shots for eligible students. 

Adults who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines can get booster shots five months after they’re fully vaccinated, while those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get booster doses two months after their shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Merlina Joseph, a freshman neuroscience major, was nervous about getting a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of moving into Morgan Hall South because she could not book an appointment and had to order an at-home self-test.

At-home tests are 85 percent accurate, but may show a false negative if taken during the early stages of infection, the New York Times reported. People can purchase at-home tests on Amazon or at stores like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.

On Jan. 19, the United States Postal Service began delivering four free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests from the federal government as part of an effort by the Biden administration to distribute 500 million of the tests to each residential address in the nation, NBC News reported. The tests are expected to be delivered within seven to 12 days of ordering, according to USPS. 

Joseph thinks it’s a good idea to require students moving into university housing to test negative, but wishes the university notified students sooner. 

“We could have been more prepared,” Joseph said.

Even though she’s fully vaccinated, Joseph is concerned about possibly contracting COVID-19 from her roommates and unknowingly spreading it to classmates.  

Nikki Ivan, a freshman environmental science major, moved into 1300 Residence Hall on Wednesday night. She took an at-home COVID-19 test before she arrived because the university’s testing centers did not offer appointments past 5 p.m. 

Ivan’s roommates are fully vaccinated and got their booster shots, so she isn’t worried about them spreading the virus. However, she’s concerned Temple will send students back home if cases rise. 

“Hopefully we get to stay, and I hope I can stay with my roommates again because I love them,” Ivan said. 

There are 225 active cases among Temple students and employees as of Jan. 23, according to Temple’s COVID-19 cases and vaccine dashboard. 

Brennan Cole, a freshman computer science major, enjoyed taking classes online but is excited to be back on campus and see his friends. He got his COVID-19 test in Pittsburgh before moving back to 1300, and knowing everyone is getting tested makes him feel safer, he said. 

Cole is worried about Temple’s recent rising COVID-19 case numbers but believes the university is doing its best to protect students. 

“Going back in person with the case numbers the way they are right now, maybe it’s a little bit dangerous but I think everything they’ve done so far has been good,” Cole said.

Emma Lipson took a COVID-19 test at home before arriving to 1300, and feels lucky to have had the test available to her because many students may not have access to testing in a short time like she did. 

Lipson thinks Temple’s decision to test all students in university housing will mitigate the spread of the virus. She is looking forward to living in 1300 this semester – instead of White Hall, like she did in Fall 2021 – and meeting new people, she said. 

“1300 is here and White is all the way on the other side of oblivion,” said Lipson, an undeclared freshman. “So being more in the center of everything will be nice.” 

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