As fall break approaches, Temple University is encouraging students to receive a COVID-19 test before and after traveling to reduce the spread of the virus, said Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people delay their travel plans until they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get tested before and after their trip. Travelers should wear a mask when indoors, especially when using public transportation, and check the COVID-19 protocols in place at their destination, according to the CDC’s website.
Last November, Temple administered free COVID-19 tests to students who planned to leave campus as the majority of nonessential courses switched to virtual instruction for the duration of the fall semester until classes resumed in January, The Temple News reported.
Here’s what Temple’s COVID-19 protocols will look like after fall break and during the Spring 2022 semester.
Students can schedule an appointment to receive a COVID-19 test before fall break through the Student Health Portal, and will receive their test results within 12 to 36 hours, The Temple News reported.
Currently, Temple is only mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students, requiring them to self-administer a nasal swab test twice per week. All other students can seek testing on a voluntary basis, The Temple News reported.
Meghan Smith, a senior risk management major, plans to get tested before fall break and potentially after break if she feels that she has been exposed to the virus or has any symptoms, she said.
“I’m all for it, especially because I’m in some bigger classes,” Smith said. “Like I understand why we should be testing before and after, so definitely if it’s going to keep us safer, I’ll do it.”
As of Nov. 14, Philadelphia reported 130 new COVID-19 cases, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Temple plans to continue its current COVID-19 testing policies at the start of the Spring 2022 semester, but may change its requirements around February — like reducing the frequency of testing requirements to just once per week — if cases remain low, Denys said.
There are 27 active COVID-19 cases among students and employees as of Nov. 16, according to the university’s vaccine dashboard.
Temple’s Nov. 15 deadline to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 passed yesterday, meaning all students and employees should have already received their COVID-19 vaccine or an exemption to the vaccine mandate.
As of Nov. 8, 94 students had not submitted proof of vaccination, 20 of which were denied an exemption request, Denys said. The university withdrew those students from their classes and instructed them to work with their academic advisors to try continuing their classes online, he said.
Of the 196 employees who submitted exemption requests, 32 were denied, Denys said.
Employees who failed to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15 are being given up to 10 days of unpaid leave to comply with the university’s vaccine mandate, Denys wrote in an email to The Temple News.
Previously, employees who did not provide proof of receiving at least one shot of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15 were not permitted to come to campus, and were also given up to 10 days of unpaid leave to comply with the deadline. Those who failed to get a shot after their unpaid leave were considered to have voluntarily resigned, Denys wrote.
Students transferring to Temple in the spring semester will be required to upload their COVID-19 vaccine card to the Student Health Portal before coming to campus, Denys said. Transfer students can request an exemption to the university’s vaccine mandate, but must follow the guidelines in place for medical or religious exemption requests, he added.
“We just want to make sure that our vaccination rate holds, our case numbers stay low and hopefully the city numbers continue to decrease,” Denys said.
Temple will continue requiring students, faculty and staff to wear masks indoors and in enclosed spaces at the start of the Spring 2022 semester, but may change the policy as the semester progresses, Denys said.
Temple first implemented its mask mandate during the Summer 2020 semester, and has required masks every semester since, The Temple News reported.
On June 18, the university announced that fully vaccinated students would not be required to wear masks indoors for the fall semester. However, the university reversed course in August by announcing that students, faculty and staff would be mandated to wear masks indoors and in enclosed spaces during the fall semester, The Temple News reported.
The day after Temple announced plans to mandate masks, the City of Philadelphia also implemented a mask mandate after reporting an uptick in COVID-related hospitalizations, with more than 400 admissions in August alone, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The city also has no immediate plans to remove the mask mandate but may do so in the future if hospitalizations and case counts decrease, Garrow said.
“We prefer to have those, the city-wide mandates, not necessarily as a punitive factor for colleges and universities but more from an ease of enforcement,” Garrow said.
Lidia Bennett, a freshman psychology major, is glad the university will continue enforcing the mask mandate because some places don’t mind if people aren’t wearing a mask as long as they’re vaccinated, she said.
“I think it’s just really important that they’re sticking to their word, and not just letting people do whatever,” Bennett said.
Rhea Mohite, a freshman business major, believes the university should ease its mask mandate in common areas, like the Howard Gittis Student Center and residence halls, she said. However, she thinks enforcing the mask mandate in classrooms is understandable due to the large number of people in an enclosed area.
“I’m for [the mask mandate] if it’s going to keep us safer,” Smith said. “I mean, obviously, I’d prefer not to have to wear a mask inside, but I understand that we’re following city guidelines and if they think that that’s the best option, then I support it fully.”