We are grateful to every member of the Penn community who has come together to help us get through this latest phase of the COVID pandemic. We will return to in-person classes as scheduled on Monday (January 24). On that day, we will also resume the hybrid work plan for staff that first went into effect last year. There are many indications that the Omicron surge has peaked in our region; in particular, our campus positivity rate declined dramatically in the past week to 6.9%, after new highs of 17.7% and 13.5% in the previous two weeks. The trend is encouraging, and we will continue to work with our public health experts to monitor these rates as more people return to campus.
We thank all of you who have already participated in gateway testing, which will continue until January 31, and we are happy to report that nearly half of our undergraduates have already conducted their gateway tests. All members of the Penn community have access to free testing at any time. As a reminder, all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs are required to receive a booster shot by January 31. Students can upload their booster documentation to their Student Health Portal, and faculty, staff, and postdocs should upload their information into Workday.
In advance of next week’s return to in-person education, we are sharing below our current plans and policies, which we will continue to adjust as the situation evolves.
Beginning February 1, we will continue the screening test policies from last semester and conduct regular screening testing for all students (other than students enrolled in an online program), faculty, staff, and postdocs. Please continue to use PennOpen Pass on a daily basis to report any symptoms. Faculty and staff in clinical schools, as well as medical students on clinical rotations, should follow local guidance.
- Fully vaccinated undergraduate and graduate students
All students who are fully vaccinated will be required to test once every other week. We encourage students to schedule all tests online now so that they can work around other time commitments and receive text reminders.
- Fully vaccinated faculty, staff, and postdocs
We will continue to monitor a random sample of screening tests every two weeks. Faculty, staff, and postdocs are encouraged to test regularly. PCR tests will remain free and readily available to all members of the Penn community.
- Not fully vaccinated students, faculty, staff, and postdocs
All students, faculty, staff, and postdocs who are not yet fully vaccinated, or who have a vaccine exemption, are required to test twice each week.
Positive screening tests from winter break
All students, faculty, staff, and postdocs who tested positive during Winter Break (or during Pre-Arrival Testing) should report to PennOpen Pass and answer “yes” to “have you tested positive in the past 5 days” even if the test was more than 5 days ago. If your positive result was from an at-home rapid test, you only need to report to PennOpen Pass. If your positive result was from an antigen or PCR test, please submit a copy of the test result to email@example.com with your name, Penn ID, Penn affiliation, and phone number. If you tested positive over Winter Break and report your result, you will be exempt from screening testing for 90 days following the date of the positive test.
Isolation and quarantine policies
As announced last month, we have updated our quarantine policies in accordance with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the higher number of students testing positive during this phase of the pandemic, we have been identifying potential additional isolation spaces for students in on-campus housing. However, if we reach capacity in our designated isolation spaces and/or more students test positive before isolation spaces become available, COVID-positive students may be required to isolate in place. We will continue to consult public health experts and keep the community updated if plans change.
We are making surgical masks widely available across campus as we implement the requirement to wear a KN95 or N95 mask, or layer a cloth mask on top of a disposable mask. Please contact your School and/or College House if you need a mask and are not able to access one. Instructors can find additional guidance on masking in the FAQs on the Provost’s website.
In-person classes and gatherings
For instructors, the Center for Teaching and Learning offers extensive guidance and strategies for returning to in-person teaching. The Faculty Senate will also be offering a webinar on Returning to In-Person Teaching on January 26 from 4-5 PM, for which instructors can register online.
Both students and faculty can also find extensive academic FAQs on the Provost’s website.
We are hopeful for better days ahead, as we continue to assess and respond to the unpredictable course of this virus. We will continue to keep you updated over the coming weeks.