Temple University is suspending most in-person learning for the fall semester after an COVID-19 infection spike on campus.
Some two weeks after the start of the fall semester, Temple reported more than 200 novel coronavirus cases. The Philadelphia Department of Health set up a mass testing site on the school's North Philadelphia campus.
The spike caused the university to pause in-person learning for two weeks, but by Thursday they decided to extend that ban for the rest of the semester.
"Now, in light of the recent increase in positive test results among our students, and after consultation with our own healthcare professionals and leaders at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, we have concluded that the data indicate it is time to pivot to primarily online education, as we said we would be prepared to do," Temple University president Richard Englert said in a statement Thursday morning.
Essential in-person classes will continue. The university estimates 95% of classes will be delivered online.
Students living in on-campus housing can get a full refund of housing and meal plans for the fall semester if they leave by Sunday, Sept. 13, Englert said. Students who need to access university services like computer labs or health services as well as those who have family members with underlying health conditions can stay on campus.
Temple is one of several major universities around the United States contending with major COVID-19 outbreaks. There have been large outbreaks at Iowa State, the University of Iowa, James Madison University and the University of Notre Dame.
Speaking to NBC News on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged schools to keep infected students and those exposed quarantined on campus instead of sending them home.
"When you send them home, particularly when you're dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, a group focused on testing vulnerable populations that lack adequate access to quality health care, diverted their testing program to Temple to help the city get a scope of the outbreak on campus.
"We were scheduled to be at a church in Darby, Pennsylvania yesterday that we had scheduled with Congresswoman [Mary Kay] Scanlon that we had to cancel, but we recognize that the positivity rate on this campus is extremely high," Dr. Ala Stanford of the consortium said Wednesday. "And they’re in the heart of North Philadelphia."
University and city health officials have said they believe small, off-campus social gatherings were fueling the Temple outbreak.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.