As we wish you all a joyful and healthy holiday break, we write to update you on our plans to start the new semester in a way that ensures the safest and most fulsome Penn educational experience.
Recognizing the high level of concern about the omicron variant and its potential impact on spring semester operations, we have been consulting closely with medical and public health experts, as well as monitoring data concerning the variant’s spread. While this is an uncertain situation, the data modeling suggests that we must take steps to prepare for a potential surge of cases in January. To that end, we summarize below our plan for the start of Penn’s 2022 spring semester. Our plan is designed to optimally protect the health and safety of our community and sustain the educational and research mission that defines our university. It is supported by the talented and dedicated Penn team that has done so much since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020.
Delayed in-person classes and student Move-In
We will begin undergraduate classes as scheduled on January 12 in virtual formats online (except for clinical courses), and then transition to in-person classes on January 24. We will also delay undergraduate student Move-In to campus housing by one week, to begin on January 15. More detailed information will follow in the coming weeks. Students in graduate and professional programs will receive additional guidance from their programs, as will postdoctoral fellows. These measures are designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus during the peak weeks of January when the spread will potentially be most active.
Pre-return to campus testing requirements
All students will be required to complete a negative PCR test 48 hours before returning to campus. We will send more information in January about this requirement. Free testing will continue to be available to all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs on campus throughout winter break; you can find the testing schedule on Penn’s Coronavirus website.
Ongoing mitigation measures
We will continue to enforce our testing, masking, OpenPass, and vaccination guidelines, along with our new booster requirement. Upon initial return to campus, we will require a new gateway test for all faculty, staff, students, and postdocs. We also will continue our suspension of indoor social events. Dining will be grab-and-go pending further evaluation of the case trends. We will follow up in the new year with more details concerning these policies and action.
Faculty and staff information
For faculty members, you will hear more from your individual deans about plans and protocols in your Schools. For staff members, we strongly encourage deans and vice presidents to allow employees to work remotely until January 23, when possible, given job responsibilities and organizational needs. UPHS-affiliated faculty and staff should follow guidance from the Health System. We are enormously appreciative of all employees who continue to work on campus in support of our entire community.
In the weeks ahead, we will continue to assess the evolving context and communicate to you about it. We will not hesitate to change our guidance based upon input from our medical and health experts. We are grateful for the patience, resilience, and flexibility of every member of our community as we face unpredictable circumstances together.
We again wish you a healthy and happy holiday break, and we look forward to getting started together on the spring semester in the new year.