With a large jump in COVID-19 case counts, La Salle University has moved to remote instruction for this week, perhaps the first college in the region to take that step.
The 4,624-student university had four active cases as the first week of classes ended Friday. By Monday, the number had jumped to 43.
“We took this necessary temporary step to address the rapidity of the increased case count we are experiencing,” interim president Tim O’Shaughnessy said in a message to the campus Sunday. “We believe this is the appropriate course of action, one that prioritizes the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.”
The cases are among both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff. Since students returned to campus Aug. 27, there have been 47 new coronavirus cases -- 18 among students living in residence halls, 28 among commuter students, and one employee, according to the university’s coronavirus dashboard.
La Salle requires the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 85% of students and employees are fully vaccinated, with an additional 5% partially vaccinated. Others have exemptions or haven’t reported their vaccination status. The City of Philadelphia is requiring students and employees at colleges to be vaccinated by Oct. 15.
Community College of Philadelphia last month announced it would delay the majority of its in-person, on-campus classes until Oct. 15 and instead offer those courses online. The college said students and employees who remain unvaccinated after that date will not be allowed on campus.
Elsewhere, Temple and Pennsylvania State University both reported fewer case counts as of Friday than at the same point last year. St. Joseph’s University was a bit higher, and Villanova University was about the same but had started its semester six days later this year.
Villanova last week began asking all employees and students, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in classrooms and other campus buildings open to the public. The university had been asking only those unvaccinated and partially vaccinated to wear them. Villanova also said it would expand its random testing of students and employees, regardless of vaccination status. On Monday, the university had 47 active cases.
At La Salle, university officials were concerned about the long holiday weekend and wanted to take a break this week from in-person instruction.
“I know you will agree that this is not an ideal start to our semester, and this is a very difficult decision to make,” O’Shaughnessy said in his message. “University leadership and the COVID-19 Response Team will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate our next and immediate options.”
He urged members of the campus community to wear masks, get vaccinated if they haven’t, avoid large gatherings, and be vigilant about their own symptoms.
“It’s easy to let the change of season sway you to believe your symptoms are mere allergies,” he said. “It’s important not to brush off even the mildest of symptoms.”