September Briefing and Rowan’s Strategy Looking Forward

Rowan uses Hollybush Pavilion as its COVID-19 testing headquarters. - Multimedia Editor / Alex Rossen

Following a drop in positive COVID-19 test results last week, Rowan continued to update faculty and students regarding the first month of class via a series of online panels. There was much to discuss as September was a defining month for Glassboro.

Rowan is a third of the way through the fall semester, with about 20% of classes with in-person contact. Provost Anthony Lowman, the senior vice president for academic affairs, stated to faculty and students that if Rowan’s positive numbers remain low, the number of remote classes could gradually decrease.

“We are looking at alternate schedules for starting the spring semester, perhaps late or starting it in a totally online format,” Lowman said. “We are not going to carry this decision into December; we think we will have a decision on our format for the spring semester no later than the first week of October.”

As Thanksgiving break quickly approaches, Rowan will have to develop plans for the students who will be in incubation and unable to return home. One thing is for sure: the school can’t let them leave for home during incubation.

“We will sit down and put together a plan because certainly, we understand those students need to be here, and we will have some kind of programming for them,” Lowman said to the panel of students.

According to Rowan’s webpage for confirmed positive cases, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 13, the university reported 288 positive tests. The most significant portion of those positive cases were 117 off-campus students during the week of Labor Day (Sept. 6-12). Off-campus tests come from places outside Rowan, such as Inspira, Rite Aid, and CVS. According to Wellness Center Director Scott Woodside, Rowan’s testing facility at Hollybush Mansion’s pavilion is testing anywhere between 10-20 students every day.

“During the week of Labor Day when we had the most known cases (roughly 175 active cases), all indications are that they are trending down. We understand we had a surge that week, but those numbers are trending down,” Woodside said.

Both Rowan and Glassboro had anticipated the surge in positive cases in early September. Last week the school reported a massive drop in cases, just 37 positive tests from Sept. 13-19. 

“The rise in COVID-19’s positive cases was anticipated by both the borough as well as Rowan University, and both the Glassboro Office of Emergency Management and the Rowan Office of Emergency Management,” Glassboro Mayor John Wallace said in a letter posted on on Sept. 14.

Dean of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) Dr. Annette Reboli offered her perspective on news regarding trends she sees at CMSRU.

“Today [Sept. 15], Cooper announced it had only six cases total within the whole hospital environment. This is an all-time low that they’ve had. The numbers are very good right now in southern New Jersey regarding cases,” Dr. Reboli said. “Despite Labor Day Weekend, we haven’t seen seriously ill patients going to the hospital so that six is very encouraging.”

Labor Day weekend came, and some students refused to let COVID-19 stop the revelry. Still, according to Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and Office of Emergency Management Michael Kantner, Glassboro’s pandemic party scene has not lived up to its usual reputation for collegiate debauchery.

“I shall keep my fingers crossed, and I will touch the wood of my desk right now, but in my 11 years here, this is my first September that we really haven’t had many large parties. Not trying to jinx myself — see I crossed fingers,” said Kantner, “[but] people see this is a serious situation we are in, and the maturity level has heightened.”

Residents of Glassboro can experience some unique situations when the town is influenced so heavily by Rowan, and vice versa. Dean of Students Dr. Kevin Koett has, on several occasions, taken it upon himself to address off-campus incidents involving student and Greek parties.

“Kevin Koett has responded maybe five times this semester, in the middle of the night over weekends on issues with students. He nips it in the bud right away,” Kantner said.

“There are consequences, there have been student organizations and students who have been suspended. But I don’t like to talk in those terms as your Dean of Students. I want to talk in terms of doing what will make Rowan successful and prove we are resilient,” Koett said.  

Students interested in the flu vaccine can get theirs starting on Oct. 15 at a drive-through clinic at the South Jersey Technology Park. This will essentially be a practice run for the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes. 

“We will hopefully [vaccinate] as many as 1,000 [people] at the South Jersey Technology Park that day, and also hold a series of outdoor clinics to follow,” Woodside said. 

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