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Drexel’s commencement virtual this year as Philadelphia area moves to ‘yellow phase’ | The Triangle

Drexel’s commencement virtual this year as Philadelphia area moves to ‘yellow phase’

The Philadelphia area moved to the ‘yellow phase’ of Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan Friday, but many of Drexel activities – including commencement – remain digital. (Photograph courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf at Flickr.)

As the Philadelphia region moves to the “yellow phase” of Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan Friday following COVID-19 closures, the easing of local restrictions will begin, including on Drexel’s campus. But this spring’s commencement ceremony will still be held remotely.

According to Philadelphia officials on June 4, the city will meet the Thursday midnight deadline, allowing the move to the “yellow phase” on Friday.

In the “yellow phase,” which Pennsylvania calls the aggressive mitigation step, telework must continue where feasible, childcare can open with restrictions and non-essential businesses (such as retail) can open with restrictions. Large gatherings are still prohibited, schools must remain closed for in-person instruction and entertainment venues (such as gyms, theaters and casinos) must remain closed.

“The purpose of this [yellow] phase is to begin to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible,” Wolf wrote on his website.

Officials warn that, should the Philadelphia area see an increase in cases, a return to the stay-at-home order “red phase” may be warranted.

“We’ll watch, but I’m hopeful that we don’t see increased spread [amid the] protests,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

At Drexel, most activities will remain virtual, including this year’s commencement program.

Drexel’s digital graduation ceremony will be held Thursday, June 11 around 6 p.m. Earlier in the day on Thursday, each college and school will hold individual celebrations digitally. Full details can be found on the Commencement page of Drexel’s website.

Graduates and their families will hear from Bill Marimow, this year’s featured speaker. Marimow has had a long career in news, serving as Editor-in-Chief of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Baltimore Sun and as Vice President at National Public Radio. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and currently serves as a Senior Advisor at Brian Communications, a strategic communications agency based in Philadelphia.

Although this year’s commencement ceremony looks far different than usual, Drexel assures that each graduate will be honored and celebrated in a special way.

“We’ll be posting some very special remarks from across the entire Drexel community,” Drexel’s website says to graduates. “You’ll find social media posts shared from around the world, celebratory Class of 2020 graduate downloads, traditional Drexel keepsakes and so much more to commemorate you – no matter where you are. Your resilience is an inspiration to us all.”

Despite a digital commencement, restrictions on other facets of Drexel are easing as Philadelphia moves into the “yellow phase” of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan.

This shift to the less-restrictive phase means research activities and clinical training, like those for the College of Nursing and Health Professions, are gradually resuming.

“Although research has been moving ahead remotely since [Drexel’s] campus shutdown in March, we are looking to reopen labs, [field-based] and clinical-based research activities on June 8,” Drexel President John Fry said in an email statement on May 29. “Under a three-stage approach, campus research activities will revolve around critical and prioritized projects and utilize faculty and post-doctoral, graduate and co-op students on a voluntary basis.”

As these and other research initiatives get underway, Fry said that Drexel is committed to following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to personal protective equipment, social distancing and deep cleaning.

As announced in an email statement on April 20, remote learning will continue at Drexel through summer term. Logistics instated for spring term, including the pass-fail grading option, will continue through the summer.

However, Drexel is hoping for big changes come fall term. Administrators, including President Fry, are awaiting a recommendation from the Fall 2020 COVID-19 task force on the best course of action for fall term. Fry will announce Drexel’s plan in the coming days.

In the meantime, researchers from Drexel’s College of Medicine are conducting a study, in partnership with Tower Health and 10 other leading medical institutions, to investigate how the coronavirus has different effects for different patients. The study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the National Institutes of Health.

Many of Drexel’s other research activities are also being made possible by national funding.

“Our research related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a primary and proud focus, utilizing the Rapid Response Research and Development Fund created to support urgent action on health-related research and development,” Fry said.

Full details on Drexel’s response to COVID-19, research activities and plans to reopen campus can be found on the Response to Coronavirus section of their website.