Temple University will continue to set aside quarantine and isolation residence halls for students who test positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a positive case during the summer and through the Fall 2021 semester, said Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services.
Temple is currently using both Johnson and Hardwick halls for quarantine and isolation housing but may use only one of these halls for the summer and fall, Denys said.
“Since we began using [Johnson and Hardwick], we have never come close to using all of the rooms, so it may not be necessary to use both towers,” Denys said.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health required Temple to provide quarantine and isolation housing options on campus to reopen Main Campus for the start of the Fall 2020 semester, Denys said. The university began using Johnson and Hardwick halls as quarantine and isolation housing in August 2020, The Temple News reported.
As of March 15, 33 students are residing in the university’s quarantine and isolation housing, Denys said.
Since the start of the Spring 2021 semester, 116 students have resided in the quarantine and isolation housing, Denys added.
COVID-19 cases among students living in university housing have remained significantly lower than cases in non-university housing throughout the spring semester, The Temple News reported. However, recently reported cases among students in university housing have substantially increased from five cases on March 3 to 45 cases on March 12, which is a cause for concern, Denys said.
“I am worried that after 12 months, COVID fatigue is setting in, the city is opening up more and people are not following [Temple’s four public health pillars] and diligently and they still need to,” Denys wrote in an email to The Temple News.
This semester, Temple is requiring students in university housing who live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to either stay in Johnson and Hardwick halls or quarantine at home with their families. Last semester, Temple required these students to only live in Johnson and Hardwick halls for “a day or two” while the university cleaned their room, Denys said.
“We found last fall that roommates were testing positive at a much higher rate than others, so we are hoping to lower that rate by requiring them to quarantine outside of their original housing assignment,” Denys said. “So far, that has been working.”
Students living in off-campus housing are given the option to stay in Johnson or Hardwick halls if they do not have access to another place where they can quarantine or isolate themselves, but only a “handful” have chosen to, said Olan Garrett, the university’s director of residential life.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 typically reside at Johnson and Hardwick halls for 10 days, which the university tracks as beginning either on the day the student first exhibited symptoms or the day of their positive test result, Garrett said.
In accordance with guidelines from the CDC, students who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 but have not tested positive themselves are retested on their sixth or seventh day in quarantine and are permitted to leave on the eighth day if that test returns a negative result, Garrett said.
As of March 12, there are 152 active cases of COVID-19 among Temple students and employees, which is lower than the semester-high 159 active cases reported on Jan. 28, The Temple News reported.
Representatives from the Division of Student Affairs call or use Zoom to talk with students staying in Johnson and Hardwick halls to support their mental health needs while isolating, Garrett said. The Wellness Resource Center also prerecorded programs about self-care and coping with loneliness on its website that students staying in Johnson and Hardwick halls are encouraged to watch.
Quarantining and isolating can be an incredibly stressful experience for students because it uproots their daily routines and separates them from their support networks, said Liz Zadnik, associate director of the Wellness Resource Center.
“There’s also the reaction to getting a positive COVID diagnosis, and this fear of what the experience will bring and how the virus is going to impact you physically in the long term or short term,” Zadnik said.
Denys has not received complaints or criticism from students about their experience in the quarantine and isolation residence halls, but he would like to receive feedback from these students about what improvements should be made in the upcoming semester, he said.