Philly’s coronavirus response

COVID cases are up on Philly’s college campuses, and universities are starting to react

Many schools force you to toggle between several pages to get an accurate picture of the situation.

The University of Pennsylvania has banned indoor parties on campus. It's one of the only Philly colleges taking action.

The University of Pennsylvania has banned indoor parties on campus. It's one of the only Philly colleges taking action.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
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On nearly every major university campus in Philadelphia, COVID-19 case counts are are up, in accordance with city trends.

At the beginning of December, many colleges were slow to update safety guidelines. It’s a critical time, when students head into several congregate settings — final exams, group study sessions, holiday parties, fraternity and sorority formals. But faced with a surge likely fueled with omicron variant, the higher ed institutions have started to react.

UArts will require booster shots for the spring semester. Drexel announced a fully remote start for its winter quarter. Temple’s first two weeks of spring semester will happen remotely, and the same goes for UPenn.

Some schools don’t make their COVID-19 situation clear. At USciences, for example, there’s seemingly no way for students, faculty, and community members to track campus positivity rates. At almost all the Philly colleges, navigating the tangle of testing and isolation protocols is difficult. You have to toggle between several pages to get an accurate picture, with case counts kept separate from the latest rules around masking and vaccination kept separate from info on booster clinics.

Here’s a rundown of the big city universities’ plans.

Note: This guide was compiled using information gathered via university spokespersons, websites, and other available documentation. We’ll keep it updated as new information becomes available. Have a tip or question? Email us.

UPenn

End of fall semester: Following an early December spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, the university banned all indoor social gatherings on campus. Final exams were held online starting Dec. 20. Penn students are required to undergo a screening test every other week and fill out a daily symptom check to monitor cases, though students have had issues maintaining compliance with these requirements. Students who do test positive are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Plans for spring:
The first two weeks of spring semester will happen remotely, the university announced on Dec. 23, with return to in-person learning scheduled for Jan. 24. The school will also require all students, faculty, and staff to receive a COVID booster shot by Jan. 31. Those previously granted an exemption from vaccine requirements won’t be subject to the update, but those who become eligible for a booster shot after the deadline are expected to receive one within a month of their eligibility.

Temple

End of fall semester: Per Temple’s COVID-19 dashboard, the university saw a spike in cases on Nov. 30 that followed city trends. “Because more than 97% of our community is fully vaccinated, we have been fortunate that case counts have remained relatively low,” Stephen Orbaneck, associate director of issue management, told Billy Penn.

Plans for spring: The first two weeks of Temple’s spring semester will be remote, President Jason Wingard announced on Dec. 22. Essential employees will return to campus after New Year’s, but regular operations aren’t scheduled to resume until Jan. 24. The university began offering boosters to students and staff in October and hosted pop-up clinics in November.

Drexel

End of fall semester: The university announced cases on campus had quintupled between Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. Administrators reiterated students must follow what’s already in place: wear a mask indoors, comply with contact tracing, and get tested weekly.

Plans for spring: The winter quarter at Drexel will start in remote mode, the university announced on Dec. 17, with some medical programs also switching to remote learning. The announcement also hinted at a forthcoming a booster requirement for faculty, staff, and students. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are available through the student health clinic.

CCP

End of fall semester:: At the main Community College of Philadelphia campus on Spring Garden Street, cases remained relatively low even as students returned from Thanksgiving, with 0 positives reported as of Dec. 3, and 4 reported as of Dec. 12. CCP announced no changes to its campus safety plan as it heads into the final weeks of exams and classes.

Plans for spring: At a Dec. 9 town hall, CCP President Donald Generals announced the Spring 2022 Protect the Pride plan, which brings campus back to full capacity and ends social distancing guidelines effective Jan. 4. Masking policies will remain the same, and unvaccinated students must still undergo COVID screening tests twice a week.

St. Joe’s

End of fall semester:: According to St. Joseph University’s COVID-19 dashboard, case counts have hovered around 10 or less per week between students and staff. With final exams ending on Dec. 18, the school has not made any plans to amend its current COVID-19 testing or conduct policies.

Plans for spring: St. Joe’s has yet to announce plans for its spring semester, which begins on Jan. 18.

USciences

End of fall semester: USciences doesn’t appear to have a publicly accessible dashboard that tracks cases and tests on campus, though students are mandated to be vaccinated and fill out out a screening form should they be exposed to the virus or test positive — at least according to the “COVID-19 Return to Campus” guidelines. With its fall term ending Dec. 17, the university hadn’t updated its policies to reflect rising case counts in Philadelphia.

Plans for spring: USciences has yet to announce plans for its spring semester, which begins Jan. 17.

UArts

End of fall semester:: Throughout the fall semester, the Center City university was requiring unvaccinated students to undergo twice weekly COVID testing. Positivity rates on campus rose from 0% on Nov. 26 to 3.8% as of Dec. 12.

Plans for spring: Booster shots are now required by the Jan. 24 start of the spring semester for anyone eligible, UArts President and CEO David Yager announced. Eligible only after classes start? You have to get a booster within 30 days of that date.

Jefferson

End of fall semester: At Jefferon’s East Falls and Center City campuses, COVID-19 case counts hovered just below 1% in December, according to the university’s dashboard. Surveillance testing continued through the end of finals on Dec. 15.

Plans for spring: As of right now, Jefferson will keep the same basic protocols in place for the spring semester — surveillance testing, required masking, and limited indoor events -but may reassess if city recommendations change.