Dear students, faculty and staff:
It is my great pleasure to join you as your new president and I eagerly look forward to the fall 2021 semester!
The new term will not be without challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has now entered into a new phase: the delta variant, the now ubiquitous strain of the virus, is taking the disease in a new direction. Young, unvaccinated people are being hit hard and hospitalizations are rising.
I am deeply grateful for the extensive work that so many have done since the onset of the pandemic to keep the Temple community safe. Those efforts made it possible for the university to support students on their path to a degree through unprecedented circumstances. As I joined the Temple family, I sought the input of an additional advisory group of our top public health and medical experts, together with leaders in student life, employee relations, and government and legal affairs. This group helped us validate our plans for the fall, and I intend to continue to lean on them for advice in this dynamic environment.
Over the summer, Temple University developed a plan so that we can study, work and, yes, have fun on campus. This will not mean a return to normal, but if we all practice these important health strategies, we can do the things that are most important to us.
WEAR YOUR MASK: Earlier this summer, we were able to relax mask requirements. But because of the surge of the delta variant, we must pivot and again require that masks be worn indoors and in enclosed spaces such as shuttle buses. You all know the drill by now. Masks have been the single most important component of prevention. That, good hand hygiene, and avoiding large crowds—especially indoors—all work to keep us from contracting or spreading the virus.
GET VACCINATED. To crush the virus, we are fortunate that there are several highly effective and safe vaccines that are widely available. These vaccines are truly the pathway out of the pandemic. They provide very strong protection from ever getting ill but, if you do become ill, the vaccine prevents the most serious consequences of the virus. For this reason, the university strongly and unreservedly advises all of our students, staff and faculty to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community from COVID-19 infection. Vaccination is our best tool to ensure that the campus can remain open.
How can you do your part? If you have not done so already, please schedule an appointment to get your vaccine through Health Services, or find vaccines in your area at vaccine.gov. Once vaccinated, please upload your vaccine information to Temple’s patient health portal. This is a critical step in providing information needed to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection. If you do not upload your vaccine information, you will be considered unvaccinated by the university and will be subject to at least weekly testing.
What happens if you are not vaccinated? If a Temple community member does not provide evidence of vaccination, they will be subject to enhanced weekly (or more frequent) testing. Unvaccinated individuals will also be subject to additional restrictions, such as limited opportunities for gathering in groups, activities in close quarters and university sponsored travel. Students should be aware that many university partners have implemented vaccine mandates and being unvaccinated may limit opportunities like internships, clinical placements, student teaching and even research experiences.
Our goal is for all of us who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated. Doing so is in the best interest of the entire Temple community—students, faculty, staff and neighbors. Please be assured we will continually monitor scientific advances and policies may change with new information and regulatory approval of vaccines. Please join me and #VaxUpTU.
We are as eager as you are to have a return to the vibrant and dynamic campus we love and have missed so much. And we will be together this fall semester. But we must acknowledge the pandemic is still with us and take the necessary steps to keep each other healthy and safe. The university’s dense urban environment means that we must also consider our impact on the vulnerable populations in our local community as well as our educational partners like hospitals, school districts and local businesses. What we do know is that the best way out of this pandemic is getting everyone vaccinated, so please do so as soon as possible.
This is the first of several communications that will provide more detail about the university’s approaches and policies designed to keep us healthy and safe.
In the meantime, have a healthy and restorative summer and look for more news and details about our return to campus policies.
JoAnne A. Epps
Executive Vice President and Provost