Temple University recently issued COVID-19 guidance and requirements about masking, vaccination and testing as well as plans for isolating unvaccinated students, a pivot from the university’s announcement in June to relax its mask guidelines for fully vaccinated students.
Temple was one of the last local schools to issue a vaccine mandate for all students, faculty and staff, except those excused for medical or religious reasons. The university is requiring students to receive their first shot of a two-dose vaccine by Sept. 10 and their second by Oct. 1 so they’ll be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, The Temple News reported.
Three-quarters of students living in on-campus housing have submitted their basic immunization requirements, of which 92 percent have submitted their COVID-19 vaccine card to the student health portal, wrote Mark Denys, senior director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News.
Seventy-four percent of all Temple employees are fully vaccinated, said Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson.
As of Aug. 20, there are 363 new cases and a seven percent positive test rate in the city, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Here’s what you need to know about Temple’s COVID-19 mitigation plans for the upcoming semester:
Temple’s vaccine mandate came hours after the City of Philadelphia announced on Aug. 13 that all students, faculty and health care workers affiliated with any university in the city must be vaccinated by Oct. 15, The Temple News reported.
Temple must follow city guidance when it comes to mask and vaccine policies, Denys said on Aug. 11, two days before Temple announced their vaccine mandate.
“So, the city requires us to do something, we have to follow those requirements,” Denys said. “If the state requires us, you know, that usually falls right in line with the city, and we have to follow that guidance as well.”
Temple chose to not issue a vaccine mandate as early as other local institutions because it wanted to take an ”inclusive” approach, like allowing people to apply for exemptions, Orbanek said. Because of this, the university only encouraged, not required, students to be vaccinated before changing course on Aug. 13, he said.
Temple only considers students fully vaccinated once they have uploaded their vaccination card to the student health portal, The Temple News reported.
Kaiya Palmer, a senior dance major, wishes Temple mandated the vaccine sooner, she said.
“I feel like it’s a bit later, like, you know, the semester is about to start and they just put it out,” Palmer said. “It would have been easy, like an easier pill to swallow if it was announced a little bit earlier, but I think it’s good that everyone is, you know, getting vaccinated, being safe.”
Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University first required vaccines in April while Villanova University required vaccines in June and the Community College of Philadelphia required vaccines in August, The Temple News reported.
Temple will not estimate the number of students fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until registration for fall classes ends in September, Denys said. He expects Main Campus to have a highly vaccinated population.
MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
Temple announced on Aug. 10 all students, faculty and staff must wear a mask while indoors and in enclosed spaces, regardless of their vaccination status, The Temple News reported.
Temple chose to implement the mask mandate because research suggests fully vaccinated individuals can still get COVID-19 and cases are rising in Philadelphia, primarily due to the virus’ Delta variant, Denys said on Aug. 11.
COVID-19 infections amongst fully vaccinated individuals are rare, but fully vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to others, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommended on July 27 that fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
Temple students should avoid crowded indoor spaces, according to Temple’s mask mandate announcement.
Temple will not hold many large classes this year or they will be conducted virtually, Denys said. However, as of Aug. 11 there are currently no restrictions on sizes of gatherings or social distancing regulations, he added.
Temple will monitor the number of COVID-19 cases on campus, in Philadelphia and at local hospitals to decide if it will lift its mask mandate, Denys said.
Students who don’t submit their COVID-19 vaccination cards to the student health portal must be tested twice a week for COVID-19 and restricted from group gatherings, activities and university-sponsored travel, The Temple News reported.
COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals will be conducted at Morgan Hall, while the testing site for asymptomatic cases will be at Mitten Hall, Denys said. Fully vaccinated students are able to get tested voluntarily at either site depending on if they have symptoms.
CONTRACT TRACING AND ISOLATION HOUSING
Temple’s contact tracing unit will not be as big as it was in the Spring 2021 semester because the university anticipates having fewer cases, Denys said on Aug. 11.
Temple has temporarily hired an increased number of contact tracers because the university expects a temporary rise in cases during the first few weeks of the academic year, which will hopefully decrease by the end of September, Denys said.
Anna Stewart, a senior psychology major, hopes classes will continue to be primarily in person and is worried classes will be moved online if Temple doesn’t hold students accountable to its mask, vaccine and distancing guidelines, she said.
“I really really hope that sort of seeing campus in this like hybrid setup makes people want to be vaccinated,” Stewart said.
Denys thinks Temple will only transition to primarily virtual learning if case numbers at local hospitals, other universities and across the city increase, Denys said. The university would also look to see if the contract tracing unit’s system is unable to keep up with the number of close contacts, he said.
“This fall we’re in far better shape than we were last fall, you know, last fall a lot of these things we hadn’t done them yet,” Denys said, “And we were just setting up our contact tracing, you know, we didn’t have the large scale asymptomatic testing, we were just setting up Morgan Hall, so a lot of the processes and procedures and programs weren’t even set up yet or were in their infancy.”