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Many colleges and universities were fully remote during the height of the pandemic. In Fall 2020, Adelphi opened to our community. With exhaustive planning, regular testing protocols and almost 100 percent compliance from our students, faculty and staff, our University upheld our mission and provided a safe campus environment throughout the semester.

The Fall 2020 semester went more smoothly at Adelphi University than at many other colleges and universities across the country. How was Adelphi able to bring students back to campus in Fall 2020 —and into its residence halls—without compromising the health and safety of the entire community? Careful planning, which began even before COVID-19 reached New York, provided the foundation for this success.

Planning Began at the Initial Outbreak of COVID-19

Adelphi’s response to the coronavirus began on January 20, 2020, just before the start of the spring semester. Spurred by reports of the outbreak in China, President Christine M. Riordan gathered a core crisis-management team that included leaders from Health Services, the Division of Student Affairs, the Department of Public Safety and Transportation, and other departments. The University’s director of health services also began working with government health officials and prepared plans to screen and support students returning to campus from China.

By February 24, the University had started full-scale business continuity planning, preparing for a rapid transition to remote learning and a remote workforce. Dr. Riordan met with the University’s management team every morning, while faculty members began training for online teaching. Adelphi moved to a third level of crisis management in the second week of March, naming a chief emergency director and appointing teams to manage six areas of operations. The goal was to protect health and safety, slow the spread of COVID-19, minimize risks to the University’s mission and operations, address enrollment and retention issues, mitigate financial challenges, and promote community values. Adelphi moved to fully remote instruction on March 16.

Preparing for Fall—Last Spring

Soon after, Adelphi began making plans to safely reopen campus in the fall. Building on the experience gained in the previous months, Dr. Riordan brought leaders together to examine every aspect of campus life and University operations. Seven planning teams were created, each with a separate area of responsibility: the student experience; academics; athletics and recreation; enrollment; human resources and diversity, equity and inclusion; public health and safety; and infrastructure and operations. Together they produced a Master Restart Plan to meet the demands of the evolving health crisis, state and local mandates, and the needs of the Adelphi community.

The Master Restart Plan served as the basis for a University-wide effort to promote the safest possible return to campus. The plan, Restart, Recover, Reimagine, called for:

  • Establishment of a new Health and Wellness Office to oversee and coordinate a safe return to campus
  • Distancing, hygiene and mask protocols, including restrictions on large gatherings, modified and reconfigured learning and work spaces, installation of physical barriers and signage, and placement of hand-sanitizing stations across campus
  • Required COVID-19 testing of resident students, international students and student-athletes before returning to campus; surveillance testing of all students and employees entering campus and satellite centers, along with completion of daily health-screening questionnaires, available on the University’s AU2Go mobile app; and daily temperature checks for some groups of students and employees
  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols in accordance with CDC best practices and New York State Department of Health guidelines and upgrading to MERV 13 filters
  • Reporting procedures, including procedures for reporting safety concerns, creation of a COVID-19 dashboard and contact tracing
  • Containment protocols, including isolation procedures for any community member testing positive on campus
  • A Pledge to Protect for community members affirming their commitment to uphold campus health and safety rules
    The final, vital component of the Restart, Recover, Reimagine program was a campuswide educational initiative that included widely viewed Adelphi Restart 2020 videos. And the University extended healthcare protections by partnering with CVS to provide free flu vaccines on campus.

While many other campuses saw the numbers of positive COVID-19 responses climb and had to move to an all-remote format, Adelphi University kept rates at an average of 2 percent. The campus remained open until the planned closing at the end of Thanksgiving break.

In her Thanksgiving message to the campus community, Dr. Riordan voiced her gratitude for the community’s efforts. “The creativity and engagement you have shown is impressive,” she said. “While I know it has not been easy, I am proud of how we have collectively faced the immense challenges of this pandemic to meet our goal of in-person learning through the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The University remains vigilant in 2021, extending all COVID-19 protocols through Spring semester, adding mandatory surveillance testing for personnel serving in the dining hall and bookstore of the renovated Ruth S. Harley University Center, which opened in January.

Fall 2020 by the Numbers

2%* * (students, faculty and staff)
Positivity Rate
(students, faculty and staff)
5,842
COVID-19 tests conducted
13,500
Masks distributed
  • 64 different COVID-19 safety signs created, for a total of 5,400 installed on the Garden City campus and at Adelphi’s learning hubs
  • 519+ Loaner laptops issued by Information Technology department
  • 1,112 classes held in person
  • 1,451 classes held online
  • 800,210 participants in 104,812 Zoom meetings, totaling 47,679,143 minutes
  • 35+ students hired as classroom-experience assistants to help faculty with new technology
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