Major changes are coming for both Drexel and the Philadelphia region, as the university plans for a fall reopening of campus and the area moves to Pennsylvania’s least-restrictive “green phase” Friday.
Philadelphia County and the rest of Pennsylvania’s southeast region is among the last to move out of the aggressive mitigation “yellow phase” after spending four weeks under eased restrictions in the phase.
In the green phase, businesses can operate at 50 to 75 percent occupancy and visitors will be permitted in prisons and hospitals. However, telework should continue when possible, and Pennsylvanians are still required to follow recommendations by the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The green phase is “not a return to the way things were, but changing behavior for a new normal,” as outlined in Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan for Pennsylvania.
Although the southeast region is permitted to move to the green phase Friday, Philadelphia is retaining certain restrictions for another week. Businesses like salons, private swim clubs and parts of the Philadelphia Zoo will reopen Friday; but gyms, malls, libraries, museums and indoor dining at restaurants will remain closed until July 3.
“Philadelphia is unique,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. “We need to be more careful than the other counties.”
Changes are happening on Drexel’s campus, too. The university prepares to reopen campus through a hybrid approach in September, President John Fry announced in a June 10 statement.
“This academic year will feature a hybrid approach to learning, research and student life designed first and foremost to support the health and safety of students, faculty and professional staff, while also fulfilling the University’s mission of teaching, research and service,” Fry said. “Classes will be taught both in person on campus and remotely.”
The decision to pursue a hybrid approach comes after months of deliberations by the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force — co-chaired by Norma Bouchard, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Alan Greenberger, department head of Architecture Design and Urbanism, Westphal College of Media Arts and Design; and Megan Weyler, senior vice president and Chief Human Resources Officer — which submitted a recommendation to Drexel administrators late May.
Fry explained that the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force used guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities, input from research studies, news stories, Philadelphia representatives, disease experts and nearly 1,300 survey responses from the Drexel community in its decision-making process.
“The recommendations made by the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force were based upon the team’s charge to protect the health and safety of Drexel’s students, faculty and professional staff, maintain Drexel’s commitment to educate and serve our community and preserve the University’s academic, business and administrative operations in order to best serve the campus community,” Fry said.
The framework for Drexel’s fall reopening plan includes a combination of face-to-face and online instruction methods; gradually increasing research efforts on campus; creating and maintaining procedures to prevent the spread of infection; and limiting the number of students, faculty and staff allowed on campus to comply with social distancing requirements.
After many local colleges and universities announced their planning for the fall academic calendar, Drexel is following suit, asking students who return to campus to depart before the Thanksgiving break. These students will complete their final week of the 10-week term and their final exams online.
Upon Drexel’s reopening, personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks, will be required in all campus buildings, Fry said. Enhanced cleaning procedures of Drexel facilities will continue, and there will be mandatory health and safety training. Reminders to comply with social distancing requirements will be posted throughout campus.
“This extraordinary moment calls for creative and innovative approaches to academic and student life in an environment that fosters a safe and healthy community, founded upon mutual understanding and an appreciation of the uniqueness of each and every individual,” Fry said.