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September 03, 2020

Temple suspends in-person classes for remainder of fall semester due to rising COVID-19 cases

Colleges Coronavirus
temple university semester covid Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Temple University, which began fall semester classes on Aug. 24, 2020, had been planning a hybrid instruction model for the fall. On Thursday, the college decided to stop nearly all in-person classes for the rest of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temple University will hold nearly all of its classes online for the rest of the fall semester due to a rise in positive COVID-19 tests among students, the college's top administrators said in a letter posted online Thursday morning.

The change comes three days after Temple decided to stop in-person classes for two weeks as a precaution after 103 students on campus had tested positive for the coronavirus. The online letter, signed by President Richard Englert and Executive Vice President and Provost JoAnne Epps, did not say how many more students had tested positive since Monday's decision.

The administrators estimated that the change will move 95% of Temple's classes online. Those classes that will continue in-person were described as "essentials-only courses" that cannot be conducted without at least some in-person instruction.

“Please know that if the data supported a decision to safely continue the fall semester experience on campus, we would have made every effort to do so," Englert and Epps wrote. "Unfortunately, the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are simply too great for our students, faculty, staff and neighboring community."

They described this decision to suspend in-person classes for the semester as "data driven."

"Now, in light of the recent increase in positive test results among our students, and after consultation with our own healthcare professionals and leaders at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health," the administrators wrote, "we have concluded that the data indicate it is time to pivot to primarily online education, as we said we would be prepared to do."

Temple University's fall semester began Aug. 24 with a mix of in-person and virtual learning.

Students who choose to leave on-campus residence halls by Sept. 13 will receive full refunds for their housing and meal plans for the fall semester. Dorms will remain open for students who either want or need to stay on campus. Academic, support and heath services will be available to those who stay on campus, the university said.

Employees have been told to continue working on campus until notified otherwise.

Like the college said earlier this week, the Temple administrators noted on Thursday that most students who tested positive are asymptomatic with some experiencing flu-like symptoms. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, and anyone who came in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus is asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The college's outbreak is believed to have stemmed from small, off-campus social gatherings. As a result, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health revised its guidance regarding social gatherings among the city's college students last weekend.

No more than 25 people should hang out at indoor gatherings, and no more than 50 people should get together outdoors. Events where students are not wearing face masks or practicing social distancing should not be taking place.

City health officials expressed concern earlier this week that the university's outbreak could stretch beyond the campus and into the surrounding neighborhood in North Philly.

Temple's faculty union and the Temple Student Government have been calling for the school to conduct all classes remotely this fall since the beginning of the semester.

Temple joins the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, La Salle University, West Chester University and Rutgers University among the colleges primarily conducting classes online.

Several other colleges in the Philadelphia-area are still holding at least some in-person classes, including Villanova University, St. Joseph's University, Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore College.

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