Universities in Philly region enforce COVID protocols as students fight fatigue

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Concern over the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses is growing as more students return for in-person classes.

"I definitely have COVID fatigue," said John Geary, a junior at Temple University, who said he still understands the need to continue to follow the guidelines in place in order to have a more social senior year.

While there have already been spikes at some local schools, others are taking steps to ensure the safety of all students and staff.

Lincoln University sent Action News a statement about the number of positive cases on campus.

"We reached a case positivity rate of 4.75% cumulative since students returned to campus where 5% is our threshold, which prompted our proactive response of reducing travel and interaction among students," read the statement.

Chester County's Health Department said it's seeing cases reported from all Chester County universities, as cases are likely to increase when more people congregate together.

The University of Delaware saw a spike in COVID cases towards the end of February when students returned for the spring semester. Since then, they put a number of protocols in place to stop the spread.

"At our worst week, which was the week of the 21st of February, we had 324 cases. And last week we had 113, so that went down dramatically," said Andrea Boyle Tippett, the director of external relations for the University of Delaware.

So far there have been 17 cases this week at the University, according to Tippett.

A local pediatrician told Action News her patients go up to 21 years old, and she has found that college-aged people are the most responsible for community spread compared to the younger patients she sees.

"When our college students go back to school, we do know that they have a tendency to congregate. And then when they congregate, are they congregating on campus, are they congregating off-campus, and are they bringing anything back to their families?" questioned Elana McDonald, a board-certified pediatrician.

A spokesperson for La Salle University said students have been doing a good job of following the precautions in place on campus, and they are starting to meet together more as the weather gets warmer, with their masks on.

"We've seen a return to smaller in-person meetings, even hybrid meetings and events, where students are mixing in-person gatherings with virtual appearances," said Chris Vito, the senior director for La Salle.

A spokesperson for Temple said students living off-campus seem to be most responsible for positive cases.

"What seems to be happening more frequently is a group of three or four roommates invites three or four other people over for an evening. They watch a ballgame, one of them who comes over is positive, and as a result, other people in that house become positive," said Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for Temple.

Betzner said recently the university has been meeting its goal to keep the positivity rate at 1% or lower. The Lewis Katz School of Medicine has processed around 53,000 COVID tests so far, and they can't find a case that has gone from students to the surrounding neighborhood. They have also not found a positive case that resulted from contact in a classroom.

Meghan Foster, a Temple freshman, moved back into her dorm Wednesday after recovering from COVID-19. She said her symptoms were mild.

"My symptoms weren't that bad, just like a stuffy nose and a cough. But they made sure we watch our symptoms and log them just in case they get worse," said Foster.

Betzner said the university hopes to have the majority of their classes in-person for the fall semester, as long as the students can continue to abide by the COVID protocols on campus.
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