In Advance of Fall Move-in, Drexel University Leaders Hold Student, Parent Town Hall
Before move-in day, Welcome Week and first classes, key leaders of Drexel University’s student support, student health, academics and business service entities — as well as from its Return Oversight Committee overseeing the return to campus for fall term — held a virtual town hall to answer student and parent questions.
More than 850 participants joined presenters at 6 p.m. on Sept. 8 to hear a run-down of information regarding policies and procedures put in place to ensure the safety of the Dragon community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most notably around testing and vaccination, campus life and academics. Pre-submitted questions were addressed, as well as those submitted live during the event through a robust Q&A.
“We wanted to express how excited we are to welcome each of you back to campus in the weeks ahead,” said moderator Anna Koulas, vice president of the Drexel Solution Institute, in a greeting before the event kicked off. “The campus has simply not been the same without you all.”
What follows below is a consolidated and lightly edited transcript of the full event. To watch the full event, click here. For additional information, please visit the “Response to Coronavirus” website.
· Marla Gold, MD, director of the Return Oversight Committee
· Janet Cruz, MD, medical director of Drexel Student Health
· Subir Sahu, PhD, Senior Vice President of Student Success.
· Don Liberati, associate vice president of Business Services
· Erin Horvat, PhD, senior vice provost of Faculty Advancement and Undergraduate Affairs
· Jon Chase, assistant vice president of Environmental Health and Radiation.
Marla Gold, MD: In late May, we celebrated because we went to zero cases on campus. We had thousands of students lining up for a vaccine. By July, the impact of the Delta variant became more apparent to us because the Delta variant is more contagious.
But we know from our data and from the data from other universities that, with precautions in place, classrooms and on-campus spaces don't appear to be places of viral spread. In fact, in the past year and a half, no university with risk reduction strategies in place has reported cases of transmission within the classroom, library, or gym.
The top drivers of infection at colleges are still social gatherings, and other students and parents. That is true particularly for unvaccinated individuals, but it is unfortunately true for the vaccinated as well.
A layered approach is key: that means vaccination, testing, masking, ventilation, robust campus contact tracing, quarantines and risk-reduction behaviors. As of this moment, Drexel students and employees are at least 90% fully vaccinated, with more in the process. About 1.5% of students and less than 1% of employees have applied for an exemption. These are excellent numbers, and the data continues to rise on vaccination.
The other thing I want to say is that this an incredible time of rapidly evolving science and knowledge. It is great, but it's also confusing because the Centers for Disease Control may announce something, and then within a week or two, we could have additional data coming in from other institutions of higher education that show us that things are a little bit different. So we look at what the science says, we look at what public authorities say, and then we look at what is possible in the realm of humans on campus, and we go ahead with our protocols and policies.
That means that we can pivot at times, and we hit bumps along the way. In the past 24 hours, I sent out a very long email with detailed information, but on it was not the information, for example, of testing on arrival to University Housing. And then when instructions on how to do that came out, there was a little bit of a bump with the availability on the weekend of scheduling that we know about, and it was quickly fixed as soon as it was brought to our attention. These things happen. We are sorry when they do, and we will do our best. Our commitment to you is to not hit these bumps and to inform you when we hit them. We'll always do our best to look at recommendations of public health authorities, the developing science, the experience at other universities. Being on the quarter system means that we can see the experiences of other places in the nation and closer to home at Penn, at Temple, at Jefferson, Lasalle, and we already know from the semester experience what we may see, and we'll let you know the best route to take based on what we've seen.
And lastly, I want to say is that this is a partnership with you students and parents; please help us out where you can. We absolutely have controls in place, mitigation or risk-reduction strategies, but we need you to be part of it in order to be successful.
Janet Cruz, MD: I'm going to focus on what Student Health does and what we offer here in terms of testing and talk a little bit about isolation and quarantine.
The big thing that I want people to take away from this is how to stay healthy on campus. We know as we approach winter months, we're going to see respiratory illness in addition to COVID. Masks are key. We've done our own contact tracing and we've evaluated our own data and we know that masks limit spread. And this is why masking in the classroom has been really essential to allowing students to come back. Vaccination is also key. I won't stay on that point too much. Our population is a vaccinated population.
We all need to self-monitor for symptoms. If you have allergies, take your allergy medication because sometimes these symptoms can overlap. Make sure to test early, so anytime someone has respiratory symptoms, whether vaccinated or not, get tested early, meaning within 24 hours of developing symptoms, just to make sure it's not COVID.
In college, living with roommates is the norm. But there is etiquette that is new for us, or new for some. When you're sick, have that dialogue with your roommate and say, “Hey, listen, I don't feel well. I'm going to get a test.” In my experience, we've actually seen students do that very well. Even when they do get sick — and we reach them pretty quickly within 24 hours — a lot of times they've already said, “Hey, listen, I've talked to my roommate. They know that you're going to call them.” From my end as a physician, I can't ask for more for my population in terms of keeping each other safe.
Finding a COVID test should be easy. We provide our own testing here at Drexel. Students can get a PCR test Monday through Friday. Turnaround time is within 12 to 24 hours, and it's free to the student. To schedule a COVID test go into the Drexel Health Checker app, pick the calendar, pick an appointment time, and then there's a registration.
The last point I'll make is that we monitor any student who is sick or who has a positive test for COVID. We make sure that our contact tracing team and our medical team are integrated. We make contact with them daily, even if they have no symptoms or minimal symptoms, until they're no longer contagious or until they're done with their illness. We want to know early if people are having complications of COVID. Luckily, in the last year, our population really hasn't seen complications of COVID, and that's what we want moving forward as well.
We also make room for walk-ins. So if people are having issues with the app or whatever it may be, they could go to the testing site and we will accommodate.
We have three locations currently that do COVID testing. We do a PCR test, which is a mid-turbinate collection. It’s not a terribly comfortable test. However, our students do it on themselves, and we've gotten to the point where, it's a pretty easy test and you're in and out within 30 seconds.
We also have a designated population that we test a bit more regularly as part of our testing program due to the high-risk nature of things that they do. Anyone who’s symptomatic, whether vaccinated or not, we want them to test, and we also test individuals who have been exposed. Our contact-tracing team will tell them when the optimal time to test is.
Student Health is at the corner of 34th and Market. If you're sick, whether with COVID or not, reach out. We’re also integrated with other services for our students. So, for example, we're very well integrated with mental health services. COVID has been a strain on all of us. Having these services in place and having that communication has really been key. We also interact with the Office of Disabilities to make sure that our students get the help they need from an academic standpoint. And then we also integrate with Student Life to make sure that students have their housing needs, food, etc. We're here for you guys.
And here’s what happens when you get a positive test. We have several layers of integration. If you get a positive test through the Drexel testing site, our case investigator will contact you within 24 hours, if not sooner. If you test outside of Drexel like while on a trip, and you get a positive test, we want you to contact Student Health. Contact tracing will reach out to you. If you do get a positive test outside of Drexel, and let's say it's after hours or you don't want to contact Student Health, if you put it in the Health Checker app, that is another way that connects directly to our systems. And then, we give you return to work and return to school procedures, meaning when you're in isolation or if you have to isolate for 10 days because you've had a positive test, we'll walk you through exactly what that means as well as medical services that are available to you during that time.
Subir Sahu, PhD: Let me just say, at the 30,000-foot level, we know this year has been tough. It has been tough for us, too. There's so many of us who got into this work because of the on-campus experience in welcoming students to our campus. We can't wait to have all of you back on campus.
We have to let health and safety drive us. We're going to look at every population uniquely. The population within our residence halls is unique based on the closed quarters, the shared spaces. And so we have some testing protocols as it relates to those spaces. As it relates to student organizations, we’re working with organizations to meet the needs of what they want to do with policies and protocols in place.
Masking is going to be critical. I saw a question earlier about whether the Rec Center will be open. It will be open. We want folks to be masked so that they can be safe and engage in the gym, much like is going to be true throughout campus. I'm now going to turn the presentation over to Don Liberati, who is going to walk through some specifics and then I'll wrap up before we move to the academic side.
Don Liberati: We've already started welcoming some students to campus over the last couple of days, so I'm just going to walk through a few quick slides to give you some information about different things on campus.
I'll start just with the DragonCard. All campus buildings will be DragonCard access only. New residential students will pick up your DragonCard during move in. We'll have tables set up outside of the Crease Student Center, where our DragonCard office is. For returning students, if you require a replacement card, we really encourage that you submit your pictures and your photos online. That makes your pick-up very quick and easy.
We also encourage students to download the DrexelOne mobile app. Before you arrive to campus, you'll get a unique QR code that will allow you scan right at the DragonCard office and pick up your card relatively quickly. If you have an expired Dragon card, feel free to just visit the office again. That's at the Crease Student Center, and you can get a new validation sticker next.
As for the residence halls, masks are going to be required in all common areas regardless of vaccination status: lounges, kitchens, multi-purpose rooms. The same is true at American Campus Communities (ACC) properties. They're following the same protocol. University Facilities will be cleaning and sanitizing all the common areas and there'll be hand sanitizer stations throughout the residence halls.
As far as our guest policy, we’ll allow one guest per resident, which will be restricted to DragonCard holders only.
We also have various student centers located throughout the campus. There’s the Rush Building in the center of campus, Creese off Chestnut Street, Korman, and the Perelman Center for Jewish Life. Again, masks will be required in all of these buildings regardless of vaccination status. These will be restricted to DragonCard holders only as well. University facilities will be cleaning and sanitizing. Hand sanitizers will be located in the centers.
We've also added a bunch of outdoor games all over the campus. We have chess boards and table tennis so you can pick up the equipment for those at the Creese student desk if you want to use any of those games, or of course, you can bring your own.
MacKenzie Luke, PhD, associate vice president of Student Success and Chief of Staff: We already have some students on campus, and we have the move-in service, which runs Friday through Monday, that is not available for early move-in groups. There will be a bin rental available for folks to unload their belongings into the residence halls. Those are sanitized between use. You will need some form of valid ID to take one out, and then you'll be able to move yourself into your space.
My understanding is that you will be allowed to have assistance for move-in either early arrival or over move-in weekend. You'll be able to have guests come in and assist you with that process. And the guest policy that Don Liberati described will kick in once we get past the move-in process. We understand the importance of allowing family to come in and help you decorate your space and get you acclimated. And so, those very stringent guest policy rules aren't going to be in place for move-in.
Erin Horvat, PhD: The faculty have missed you and seeing your faces in a classroom instead of on a Zoom screen. Our faculty have been giving a lot of thought as to how to engage students who have not been in an actual classroom in a long time.
I won't go into those details, but certainly our teaching and learning center and our deans and our department heads have been talking to faculty to be prepared to engage students. They've also been giving a lot of thinking themselves to how they're going to teach in masks. How do you use your eyes and gestures and so forth to communicate to replace that smile and connect with students in a human way behind our masks?
We are also, on the faculty side, preparing for continuity of instruction. We know that there may be “bumps.” We may have groups of students getting sick, and we've been giving a lot of thinking to preparing how we will manage that. One of the things that we're trying to do is remain flexible, as we move throughout the quarter, to respond to instances as they arrive, to keep our students learning, to continue that continuity of instruction throughout the quarter.
So let me address some of the questions that were pre-submitted about virtual classes and students being able to switch to remote learning. You're expected to be in class if the class is in person. The only students who will be accommodated are those with a qualified disability or who are international students who physically cannot get into the country. We are having some remote synchronous classes for that very, very small number of students. So, classes will not be sort of going remote by request or having a remote option by request.
The related question to that is, what happens if we do get sick? Will lectures be recorded? Can I attend remotely? Much of that will depend on the class itself. We will be providing recordings where they make sense and where it's possible. We're encouraging faculty to record large lectures and make them available. In fact, that's one of the things that we learned over the pandemic is how much students really appreciate having those lectures recorded, because then they can rewatch them and use them as a study tool. On the other hand, labs and discussion-based classes are virtually impossible to record and capture the material, so solutions will be adapted.
We have a whole list of things that we've provided to faculty so they can continue to engage students who are sick or not able to come to class. If the recording option does not work, I won't go into those, but they include alternative assignments, extra office hours, that kind of thing.
We understand that at some other universities, students are being told to withdraw if they get COVID because they won't be able to complete the semester or the quarter. I want to be clear that that's not our stance. Students can remain enrolled and we will work with you through that quarantine or isolation period to continue the continuity of instruction.
Jon Chase: So, if you happen to show up and you don't have a mask with you, there will be ambassadors around campus in various buildings. These ambassadors will look very much like part of our Public Safety Department and security officers. They will have masks on them. They'll be carrying Drexel drawstring backpacks that have packages of masks in them. They will also be located at all the security desks at each of the buildings if anybody wants to get one.
Luke: [As for Drexel logo masks] we're going to have them available at our Resource Fair during move-in weekend. First-year students and second-year students who are invited to participate in Welcome Week programming can go and get your T-shirt; you'll sign a waiver to make sure that you're able to participate fully in all of our activities and we'll be giving away masks. The Resource Fair is in the Creese Student Center all during move-in weekend.
Chase: My job as it relates to COVID is to implement administrative and engineering controls that are designed to mitigate risk on campus. We've assessed the HVAC systems around all of our buildings in every campus, whether it's an owned building or a leased building. We've looked at our custodial services, their cleaning frequencies, and what products they're using in those cleanings. We have signage at all of our building entrances and in other key areas. With regard to ventilation, the things that we look at are the dilution ventilation, how much air is being brought into a space, and how much of any contaminant can be expelled from the building. We've done things like increase the filter ratings. We've increased the amount of outdoor air that's brought into our spaces. We have increased our runtime and occupied modes, sometimes 24/7, sometimes several hours before and after the building is occupied.
Vaccines, Testing, Positive Cases and Boosters
Q: [Regarding testing and vaccination], what are the expectations and testing protocols for individuals coming to campus?
Janet Cruz, MD: What we have in place for move-in weekend is a little bit above and beyond what we're doing for the rest of the year. I'll start with our students moving into housing: upon arriving on campus, they will be asked to do entry testing. They'll swing by the testing site, they'll get a test, and then the next day they'll get their results. And this is for all students, whether you're vaccinated or not.
There are several reasons we're doing that. We want to make sure that as we're moving students into housing units that we catch disease pretty early. So for this weekend, anyone moving into housing is going to get tested right away.
Let's start with our exempt or partially vaccinated as a second tier of our population. For our exempted students or partially vaccinated students, they will be enrolled in our testing program. Depending on which subpopulation they belong to, that will dictate their frequency of testing. If they live in housing, right now we're going to recommend that they get tested twice a week. If they're commuter students and they're attending classes, they have to get tested minimum once a week.
These students will be notified. We do ensure that they're compliant with testing. For our exempted students, they will have to get tested at that frequency for the entire duration throughout the semester or the quarter.
[This is] just dorms, what we consider Drexel supplied housing. So that does not include American Campus Communities (ACC) properties at this point. However, if you live in an ACC property and you do attend in-person class and you're exempted, you will be enrolled in our regular monitoring program.
For our partially vaccinated individuals coming in, they will be enrolled in our monitoring program of once or twice weekly testing, depending on which population they fall into, until they're fully vaccinated. We are providing vaccines this weekend on site, meaning if for some reason you were not able to get a vaccine, you will get your test and we have vaccinations that will be happening side-by-side at the testing site.
Just so everyone knows here, “fully vaccinated” is considered two weeks after completing a vaccine series. Individuals will be enrolled in our testing program until two weeks after receiving their last vaccine.
Q: What happens with an individual that is tested [on move-in weekend] and they test positive? What does that look like?
Cruz: If they live in our housing units in our Drexel housing, we have isolation or quarantine spaces that are set aside so that individuals that test positive have the option to move in. Students have two options. If they live in our housing units, we will provide quarters for them to be able to isolate safely, or they have the option of going home if they so choose. But if they're living in the dorms, we do relocate them or provide additional housing so that they can isolate safely.
The duration is going to be ten days: ten days from a positive test, or if they're symptomatic, it's ten days from the first onset of symptoms.
Q: Assuming that someone is here and they have been exposed, what does that process look like? Are they isolated? Are they quarantined? Can you provide some clarity around the difference between the two, and where would they be doing each?
Cruz: So, isolation is for individuals that have tested positive, symptomatic or asymptomatic is a little bit different than quarantine. With exposures, if someone is vaccinated, they do not have to quarantine. However, there are certain steps that they do have to do. Our contact tracing team does a good job of reaching out to the student and outlining what we need them to do for the next seven days. One is going to be they're going to have to self-monitor for symptoms, and we do that actively with the contact tracing team. The second thing that they're going to have to do is wear a mask around everyone, including in your housing units, which can be a little bit weird for individuals. But if someone has been exposed and they're vaccinated, we want to make sure that one, we catch them early, and then two, if they do develop symptoms, that they're not spreading it. And then the third thing that they're going to be responsible for is getting a test at day five. This is to make sure that we have observed an individual that was exposed and then we're able to clear them to return back to their normal activity once they have a negative test and they've completed their observation period of seven days. It's very confusing sometimes when we're looking at this and this is why we have our providers here and our contact tracers that really assist in walking the students through this.
Let's say you're partially vaccinated or a student that cannot get a vaccine because of a medical condition or an exempt student. In that case, we do recommend that the students go into quarantine formally, because they're a little bit higher risk of contracting COVID. So if the students are in our Drexel housing, we will provide quarters so that they can safely quarantine while we are monitoring them and getting them tested to see if they have developed COVID. We have quarantine units within the University to help our students that live on campus quarantine safely. If you live off campus, as Subir said, we do evaluate each of these situations individually but our contact tracers walk through how you can quarantine safely within your housing unit or how to get food safely, etc. So it depends on the situation by individuals that are vaccinated will be asked to self-monitor. We help them do that. Individuals that are unvaccinated will have to formally quarantine for seven days.
Q: Why use a PCR test?
Cruz: The PCR test is really specific and sensitive. It's the gold standard for our population in terms of detecting COVID. We've had a lot of conversations in terms of which test is best. Because we're able to test and get the results really quickly, that's our standard.
Marla Gold, MD: With the PCR test that we do and our ability with the onsite lab, we have results later that evening in most cases, sometimes the next day. It's not the PCR at your neighborhood drug store.
I saw somebody comparing it to the rapid test, since it comes back very quickly and the contact tracers and case investigators are on it very fast. What we saw with rapid tests is that you do get a lot of false positives, and you end up having to test with PCR anyway. The test, while it's not super uncomfortable, you do have to go up someone's nose to retrieve another sample. For our population, it just makes sense, since we're doing everything internally and our turnarounds are so quick, to stick with PCR.
Q: If somebody does not want a PCR test, could they go somewhere else? Are we covering the cost of testing somewhere else? Do we cover the cost of testing on campus?
Cruz: Testing on campus is free and we've done it for a reason. Insurances are covering PCR tests or rapid test. I don't know how long insurances will be covering that. Right now, we are not reimbursing. So, if you choose to get tested elsewhere or don't want a PCR and you want a rapid test, we are not reimbursing for those services because we've made strides to make our tests easily accessible and free to our community.
Anna Koulas: Testing is open to everyone and anyone that's part of our community. And we're definitely encouraging that, for individuals that want to schedule a test, they simply go on to Drexel Health Checker — either the app version or the web based version — to register and pick a time to take their test.
Q: Will we know percentages of vaccination versus unvaccination per college?
Gold: We will give vaccination percentages for the entire campus population for students and employees as we go. We will not be giving that out per academic unit, per housing or per administrative unit. It isn't value added for the way vaccination works in a community; it provides probably a false sense of protection and there are also issues of personal health information.
I will say though, proudly, that that 90% pretty much distributes to 88% to 90% right across all units. I can share that. We take a look at not just the percentage, but where people are. We take the concerns of both students and parents who are on here very, very seriously. We see the questions coming in. None of them are surprising. We understand. But we are looking at the big picture as well as the units as well as anything demographically that would raise our concerns and that we would have to intervene.
Q: What happens for an individual that may have immunity? Are they being treated differently or are they being tested differently?
Cruz: Regardless of whether people have had COVID in the past or not, we're recommending vaccines for all. And there's a reason for that. I've worked at a hospital. I still do inpatient medicine in addition to doing student health. We have seen individuals that have had COVID initially when it started and then get a new strain of COVID and get sick a second time. So, I've gotten this question a lot. We follow CDC guidance. Right now, the CDC has recommended that, irrespective of a prior infection, individuals get vaccinated.
Right now, we're not doing antibody testing. We're really making sure that our population is a heavily vaccinated population.
Q: What is the approach that [Drexel] will be taking regarding booster shots?
Cruz: For individuals that are immunocompromised, we do already have availability for booster shots for them, and we've started some of that process. Right now, we are following CDC guidance regarding booster shots. We are preparing our systems so that if the CDC pivots and decides or recommends that our population receive booster shots, we are able to do so.
Gold: The booster is not included as part of a mandate at this current time. We would need to see more science and understand. This is not because we don't believe in boosters, but because there isn't enough out there in the rollout to say that's part of it.
Q: What will the move-in process look like? What are expectations and what can people expect to see happening on campus? Where can additional support be found, or where can Dragons moving on campus email or call if additional clarification is needed?
Subir Sahu, PhD: We're going to look at where a student lives — if it's in our housing, if they have roommates, if it's off campus — and we might take different approaches to every one of those situations. We’re going to follow the guidance of Dr. Cruz, and she's going to work hand-in-hand with your student if we are in a situation to see what makes the most sense with health and safety driving us. That's why for some of these questions, it’s a little hard to say for every one of these situations, we're going to do X, because sometimes it's dependent on the circumstances around it.
Taking a step back about move-in, we want to answer as many questions as we can. Folks who are moving in tomorrow, it's not that you're moving in and you have zero support. You will pull up to your building, you can get a bin, you can go in with your student, you can unload your materials, and then you can park in the garage and come back and make sure that your student is set up. I want to clarify that what we call our cruise ship style move-in services, which is opposed to you putting things in a bin and taking it up to your room, means we're going to have our outside move-in company do that for you. That starts on Friday.
Regardless, we're going to have systems in place so that you are just not hauling boxes one by one in either case. It's just a little bit different from Thursday to what's happening Friday through Monday. And then for upperclassmen moving into our housing, same thing next weekend. You can still get a bin. You can move up your stuff and then park and then go from there.
There's a lot of questions about some challenges with getting a testing appointment, etc. Here's what I would say broadly. If you're not sure, you're moving into your space, go to the testing site. We will take care of you. But I can tell you with 100% certainty is that Dr. Cruz and her team won’t not turn anybody away. We're going to try to help everyone. So if you're worried, you know your move-in time, come in, walk to the testing site. We'll take care of you.
If there are general questions about move-in as a whole, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: For those that are moving in, if they received a test result that day, may they bring that in in place of being tested upon arrival?
Cruz: If someone gets a PCR test, yes, theoretically, you can. But again, we're providing these services for a reason. They're tied into our system so that we can get test results quickly and we want a test done day of. There aren’t a lot of places where you can get a PCR test where you have a turnaround time in 12 hours. We're getting as close to real-time testing as you can.
Gold: In the background of all of this, there is a huge data collection system that looks at trends on campus, where people are and what they do. So really, getting tested with us at the times that we're offering and following these policy and protocols is important because based on initial test results and trends, we will then come back to our Scientific Advisory Group that I meet with regularly in my role of chief wellness officer, and that will direct further testing strategies, looking at the results of our campus and others and then knowing what steps to take moving forward.
Sahu: So much of our success this year is going to be dependent upon how we work together as a community: faculty, professional staff, students, family members. That's another reason that I would encourage you to go through our systems, get to know Dr Cruz and her team, talk to us and ask us questions.
We want your students to feel like they’re coming home. This is my home. Here are the policies. If I don't know, I know who to turn to. I think that's another reason that, for the things that we have in place, it’s good to take advantage of those.
Q: How many individuals will be allowed to join our students at move-in? Is it one individual in addition to the Dragon? Is it multiple individuals?
Sahu: Our policies on visitors and guests are going to kick in post move-in, so this is like any other move-in. We recognize that this is a special time. So there are no parameters around that.
I think you’ve got to figure out what's best for your family. And of course, we want to make sure that campus is safe. Typically, our move-in is done in a day or two. [This year it’s] expanded out over multiple days for the primary purpose that we can do testing with students as they come in and that there's less people congregated in a space. So, we would love it if it wasn't 80 people that are coming with your student on campus. But there's bring as many folks as you'd like.
Q: Can we just provide a little bit more clarity around DragonCard pickup and when that occurs?
Don Liberati: The DragonCard offices are open all the time. There's an office on all three campuses. On University City Campus, it is at Creese Student Center between 32nd and 33rd streets on Chestnut Street. There's an office in Center City and in New College Building, and then there's an office at Queen Lane. If you want to visit our website, all the times are sort of listed on there. We do some expanded times as people are moving in, but there is accessibility on all three campuses.
Q: For individuals that are moving into any of the housing locations, should they be bringing a filtration system with them?
Jon Chase: Not really. I mean, the population is going to be limited inside the dormitories to what is essentially going to amount to a pod or a household, and it's a largely vaccinated population. So we're not recommending it. If somebody feels comfortable having one and they bring one from home, that's fine. Just make sure it's UL-listed and electrically safe.
Q: Where are masks required, at what times, and what are the current recommendations?
Gold: The current recommendations, which are based both on the science as well as the experience of national institutions of higher education, are that masks are required to be worn indoors in all of our instructional spaces, including classrooms, the library and, in some cases, the gym, depending on the activity and the student athlete. There's signage up around that. Basically wear masks everywhere, except when we get to residential housing. Then there are clear directions on mask use for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals. But when people are home and they're in their units, we don't expect people to be masked when they're in their room with a roommate, per se. Unless, as I mentioned to you, there is an unvaccinated or exempted person and they know what they need to do.
Pretty much, when in doubt, I’ll just say wear a mask. I do want to say we're not separated from the rest of the city of Philadelphia. There are strong rules about indoor masking in all places in Philadelphia or vaccination requirements for certain indoor dining experiences. So, we both are proud and realistic about being part of a large urban city.
Q: Are unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals paired in the same dorm? Are we allowed to ask another individual if they've been vaccinated or not? What if there are concerns about whom an individual has been paired with?
Cruz: I want to just emphasize that at Drexel, we've always had immunization requirements. This is not new. We just extended it a little bit because of COVID. So having an exempt student for a vaccine is not a novel thing. We have other vaccines that, for some reason, sometimes students cannot get the vaccine. I will also emphasize that the risk of illness is really on the unvaccinated person. For our students that are vaccinated, that vaccine really does provide protection. The risk is going to be to the unvaccinated student, and they'll have to take extra precautions.
I always encourage that roommates speak openly to each other, especially, if they have a mild illness. Whether they're both vaccinated, whether one's unvaccinated, the other one is or both unvaccinated, it's going to be crucial this year to have this conversation because really, the individual that is unvaccinated is the one that has a higher risk of developing complications.
We do guide our students with exemptions through what extra precautions they have to take, and they should be taking throughout the year to make sure that they keep themselves healthy.
Liberati: The way people end up with a roommate is one of two ways. Students either participated in self- selection in June and selected either a room or a roommate through that process. For students who didn't participate in self-selection, we go through a matching process based on some questions that are asked during the housing application. However, if you have any questions about assignments — and I would say this is really at any time — feel free to reach out to email@example.com and we're always happy to sort of work with you on anything that's going on.
Q: For individuals that need to quarantine or isolate that are either in our housing or ACC, how are we accommodating and assisting them?
Cruz: That's a multi-layered question. Our contact tracers and case investigators engage with them every day. We have a system that provides 24/7 engagement. So, let's say it's 2 a.m. and you're in isolation because you have COVID and you start having short of breath; our students can call the student health number and talk to a doctor. They'll give them guidance in terms of what to do. In an outpatient setting here, I've arranged students to get specialty evaluation if they needed to.. So if our students get really sick, we could act on it early. So all these systems really talk to each other, and we integrate. From a medical standpoint, you're able to get services really quickly.
And like I mentioned, we do monitor our students daily. I know sometimes that's not the fun part. They don't like to engage with us if they feel fine, but we do it for a reason. We also guide them in terms of testing. If they live off campus, or if they have spouses and kids, we walk them through how to keep their families healthy.
Q: What will the dining experience look like? What will be open on campus and can guests join Dragons within dining facilities?
Liberati: We're going to be back to indoor dining. The operations will be what we would typically have seen kind of pre-COVID. We are going to ask that masks are worn from the time you enter the building. You can take it off briefly while you're eating, and then we do ask that everyone will be putting them back on. But all of our dining locations are really kind of ready and set to reopen.
I do think you'll find we have more grab-and-go options. We have more order ahead options in some of our locations. We do have tents on campus, so if you'd like to eat outside, there's plenty of outdoor seating available.
In terms of our guest policy, it'll be really similar to how we're following in the residence halls. Dining locations will all be DragonCard access only when we open.
Q: How frequently is cleaning and sanitation being done? Are classrooms being wiped down in between sessions?
Chase: Every functional space, whether it's the floor of a dormitory or a classroom area, is cleaned at least one time a day using EPA- and CDC-approved disinfectant. There are also porters that are working throughout the day and continuously wiping things down and cleaning as we go along. On an as-needed basis, there's additional sanitizing and fogging that can be done for a variety of reasons.
Q: At what percentage of positive cases would there be a reverse effect to potentially switching courses to online, being remote or closing down campus?
Gold: So there isn't a set number. We will tell you what we look at, though, and our dashboard
— you definitely want to go to our website and look at public health guidance and regular information on the dashboard. The dashboard is going to change in its format very soon. So that'll be coming up. There are three main things that we are concerned about.
Obviously, the first is the health of students: how people are doing, if they're getting infected, what that looks like overall. In the vast majority of cases, these are asymptomatic individuals or mildly symptomatic. We'd like not to see it at all because there's still a lot more science that needs to be understood.
There’s the rate of rise of infection. There are some institutions nationally — not here in Philadelphia, happily — that have opened and been hit very hard with positive cases that are so high that the rate of absenteeism, combined with the rate of rise, has meant a move to remote courses for one to two weeks, and that's usually given as an option to professors.
I will say that if we see a rate rising and large numbers of cases, there will be a system of information that goes out both to parents and students — lots of communications. There'll be an update on the dashboard. You'll be able to see it. If we run out of spaces for isolation — we don't anticipate this will happen, but we're ready in case it happens — that would cause us to pause the campus. But, with a heavily vaccinated population and risk reduction choices that make sense combined with the other strategies in our layered approach, we are hoping that none of this happens.
Q: What happens for somebody that's in quarantine or isolation with classes? Are they online or are they excused absences?
Erin Horvat, PhD: That would depend. So, if they're in a large lecture, that lecture can be recorded and they can watch it and perhaps participate. If there's group work, they could meet with their group via Zoom. They could attend Zoom office hours.
If it's a discussion-based class, that's a little harder because most discussion-based classes are not recorded. It tends to inhibit discussion. So the instructor would work with the student to develop an alternate assignment.
We've also discussed with professors the possibility of providing sort of peer group support to help share notes and thoughts about what was happening in class. And again, it would be different for a lab or a studio. It really would depend on what the class is and how long the student is out.
Q: For an individual that might become positive, what is the absentee policy? What happens if the faculty member falls ill?
Horvat: Let me talk first about faculty. Departments and colleges have been preparing, and everybody teaching in a classroom has a contingency plan if they get sick. It will vary on the class, like what kind of class it is and who the person is to fill in. If they're ill for a longer period of time, we look at replacing an instructor. But again, these situations are going to be evolving and we will adapt as they evolve.
We have an absence from class policy that really is not designed for COVID. And so, we have augmented that. There's an FAQ on the Provost’s website that has specific language about that. It's not all that different than what I've described here, which is that the faculty member will work with the student to have continuity of instruction. What that will look like depends on the particular case: how long the absence is, can the student participate via Zoom or not, can they watch recorded lectures or not?