The following message on options being explored for the winter term was sent to the Drexel community on Oct. 21. Looking ahead the University is finalizing its current assessment of three scenarios.
- COVID-19 update
- Decision-making for the winter term
- Drexel’s evolving testing strategy
- Mental health resources
Dear Members of the Drexel Community,
Drexel University continues to keep a close watch on the pandemic and its impact on our local businesses, families, and communities. Like colleges and universities nationwide, we are making incredibly challenging decisions with an eye on health and safety first. We are focused on reducing risk, supporting our community members, delivering a high-quality academic experience, and remaining financially secure.
As public health and medical experts anticipated, the autumn appears to be accompanied by an increase of COVID-19 throughout the country, including Pennsylvania. As of October 16, Pennsylvania had seen more than 1,000 new cases per day for the previous 10 days. Please continue to take care of yourselves and those around you. This includes wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands, along with regular use of the Drexel Health Tracker app.
Currently, the College of Medicine, Kline School of Law, graduate programs and select undergraduate programs in the College of Nursing and Health Professions are operating in a hybrid mode, where students experience a combination of face-to-face and remote classes. Laboratory researchers, including faculty, students and professional staff, have returned to campus.
Of course, all of us are eager to welcome undergraduate students back to campus and to fully open on-campus Drexel housing in the safest manner possible. In the meantime, I am proud of our community for staying safe and rising to the challenge posed by the pandemic.
Winter Term Options
Looking ahead, the University is finalizing its current assessment of three scenarios for the winter term:
- Bringing undergraduate students back to campus and continuing with the existing health and safety protocols in place.
- Bringing smaller, select groups of undergraduate students to campus based on their need to access key university facilities such as studios and labs as identified by their colleges for specific programs.
- Maintaining an approach like the fall term in which graduate programs continue their mix of in-person and remote teaching while undergraduates continue to learn remotely.
The Return Oversight Committee (ROC) is also considering the feasibility of fully re-opening Drexel on-campus housing to students for single-use occupancy, as recommended by Philadelphia health officials. Although the situation is fluid, the ROC will soon provide its recommendation and I expect to make a decision by the end of this month on both the winter term and the opening of Drexel housing, which will be shared in an upcoming communication.
Updated COVID-19 Testing Information
We completed baseline COVID-19 testing and follow-up for those Drexel community members who were cleared to return to campus this past month. Now, as we consider bringing more students, faculty and professional staff back to campus, we are developing larger-scale testing strategies, informed by CDC guidelines, the experience of other higher education institutions and our own baseline testing results data. We have begun to incorporate changes into our current testing approach and our plans for upcoming terms.
Currently, all symptomatic students and those known to have been exposed to an infected individual are urged to call Student Health to be assessed. Appointments are made for testing as deemed appropriate.
Effective October 14th, Drexel added two days per week when all Drexel students without any symptoms and who feel well can still schedule a COVID-19 test. Our experience and those of other regional universities have found that students with three or more roommates may be at increased risk of infection resulting from participation in small social gatherings. At this time, many students are making appointments for this expanded testing opportunity.
While there is no single proven national strategy for COVID-19 surveillance testing, there is mounting evidence that such testing can strengthen situational awareness and further mitigate risk of infection. As more students and employees return to campus, Drexel will transition to surveillance testing protocols for defined groups of students, faculty, and professional staff.
Currently, asymptomatic students who schedule their own test conveniently receive their results through a HIPAA-secure portal in the Drexel Health Tracker app. In preparation for enhanced COVID-19 student and employee surveillance testing, please make sure you have downloaded the app.
Please also continue to check Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website for the latest information.
Mental Health Resources
Given the heightened and continual stress stemming from the pandemic, I want to remind you that Drexel provides counseling services for students, faculty and professional staff. Students can schedule an appointment with a therapist by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information on how to cope with COVID-19 can be found at this site. Employees can call 888.628.4824 to access free, confidential counseling sessions through Drexel's Employee Assistance Program. Assistance is available at any time of the day or night for both employees and their family members.
I would like to thank each of you for your continued patience and flexibility as we work through this pandemic together. I am impressed and heartened by the efforts of the Drexel community and I look forward to the time when we can be together on campus.
Please be safe and well in the meantime.