Less than a week into the new semester, Villanova University had recorded 186 active cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday, and campus officials warn if the trend continues, the school may need to revert to all-remote instruction.
“This weekend the COVID-19 dashboard numbers are higher than we have previously experienced,” the Rev. John P. Stack, vice president for student life, wrote in an email to students on Sunday. “Although we have the resources to manage the current situation, these numbers are not sustainable.”
Villanova, with about 6,500 undergraduates, has had 200 cases since Jan. 19, three-quarters of them students living on campus, according to its coronavirus dashboard. While new cases were in the single digits last week, they shot up on Saturday, and on Sunday, the university had 64 new cases. The cases haven’t been traced to any specific event, said Jonathan Gust, a university spokesperson.
Students began classes Jan. 25 and had returned to campus the previous weekend. About 5,000 students are living on campus, Gust said.
The university conducted its entire fall semester with some in-person instruction, with cases rising and falling and occasional warnings to students. But the school didn’t reach 200 cases until about two months into the semester.
Stack told students if the trend continues, Villanova will end the on-campus semester.
“We must immediately act in ways that will bring our numbers down and we must do this together,” Stack wrote.
Students should wear masks when they are not in their residences, keep social distance and avoid gatherings where masks are not worn, he said.
As cases surged, the university activated an additional 270 quarantine and isolation beds, for a total of 430. Students who test positive or are a close contact are sent home to isolate if they live within 300 miles of the campus.
“While the rise in cases is something that Villanova hoped it wouldn’t have to face this early in the semester, it’s something many other schools, particularly those with residential settings, anticipated,” Gust said.
All Villanova students, faculty, and staff who are on campus were required to be tested before the start of the semester. The university also is beginning surveillance testing this week.
Temple University, which welcomed students back to campus but has kept most instruction virtual, recorded 107 active cases as of Friday. Six are among employees.