Face masks, social distancing and testing plans were key topics at the COVID-19 pandemic town hall, hosted virtually on Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. Director of the Return to Campus Oversight Committee Marla Gold took parents, students and faculty members through Drexel’s ongoing plans and precautions that they hope will ensure campus safety.
Throughout the presentation, Gold stressed the importance of face masks around campus and within campus buildings. Although Drexel students are not required to be on campus this term, there are still students and faculty members on campus that must follow these guidelines.
“We don’t want to contribute to the morbidity — that’s disease — [or,] God forbid, mortality — that’s death — among our campus population and, importantly, in our city and surrounding areas,” Gold said about the necessity of these new safety guidelines.
Starting on Oct. 14, Drexel will implement on-campus testing in Myers Hall for all its students. This testing will be free, but it is required that students register online in advance using a link that students will receive this week. After Oct. 14, testing will take place every Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eventually, the Drexel Health Tracker app will allow students to register for testing and receive test results.
Students living with three or more roommates are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic or think that they have been exposed to the virus.
“In institutions all around Philadelphia and nationally, we are seeing upticks in COVID infection among students who have three or more roommates,” Gold said.
As the University expects to face as they make plans to combat this virus, it expects to face challenges in regulating face mask usage, gatherings and compliance issues. Facial coverings are and will continue to be required, and penalties (such as bans and suspensions) will be put in place if students refuse to cooperate.
In addition, Gold mentioned that most of the cases from surrounding universities and within Drexel’s community are the result of small gatherings. These consist of people that do not share the same living space in groups of four to seven and spread the virus to those they come in contact with.
Gold went on to say that, as winter term approaches, there is a greater risk that the virus will spread more easily due to students spending more time indoors and being in closer contact with others.
“As the weather gets colder, these events like small gatherings that are indoors are going to get even riskier,” Gold said.
Separate isolation and quarantine facilities are available on campus for Drexel students. Once a student becomes infected or comes in contact with an infected person, they will work with student health through the Drexel Health Tracker to plan where and how they will quarantine.
In some cases, students might be allowed to stay in their current living space if it allows them to isolate and recover effectively. However, Drexel’s health services will be able to provide a separate space for these students if needed.
During her presentation, Gold stated that, after a student tests positive for the virus or comes into contact with someone infected, a negative test will not guarantee that the student can leave isolation or quarantine once they have started that process. Students must follow the safety guidelines implemented by Drexel before they are able to leave their isolation space. Additionally, she stated that students must comply with the University’s and the Philadelphia Health Department’s contact tracing to ensure people from Drexel and other universities are made aware that they may have been exposed to the virus.
“We have all been younger and we do understand. However, this is a pandemic with a dangerous virus particularly for older and vulnerable individuals, so we have to be extremely careful and know where people have been when they’ve been infected,” Gold said.
The meeting concluded with information about support and resources for students during this pandemic. In addition to the isolation and quarantine facilities, Drexel is also offering mental health resources, such as counseling, to support students that are struggling.
Gold ended her presentation by acknowledging the harsh reality of college life and the world today.
“These are some of the toughest times because of the pandemic, social unrest, all of the things that we’re hearing on social media, seeing on TV. It’s tough. It’s tough for everyone, particularly young people. We are here for you,” Gold said.
To keep up with Drexel’s testing updates and general information about the plans for winter term, visit drexel.edu/coronavirus.