Update of Important Information for Graduate and Professional Students

July 31, 2020

Graduate and Professional Students –

I write today as follow up to the community message from June 25 with some important additional details relevant to graduate and professional students specifically.  First, please be reminded to check out Penn’s Fall Semester Planning website for updated information and FAQs for students and related to health and safety and research resumption. As the pandemic continues to progress, we continue to put plans in place that to the best of our ability protect the health and safety of our students, and also to provide the highest level of education to all of our students. Many faculty, staff and students have been involved in putting together programs to help support our educational mission and your academic and personal success. And it is up to all of us to do our part to be vigilant regarding responsible behaviors, contact tracing and testing. Here I provide you some information related to those topics.

While graduate and professional instruction will take place largely online this Fall, we are providing requirements in person where it is essential to have an in-person experience in order to meet curricular and/or pedagogical requirements. Examples include lab requirements, clinical experiences, studio classes, etc. First-year international students can get a support letter from their academic program to confirm that they are attending a hybrid program in Fall 2020.  Please see additional information on the International Student & Scholar Services website.

You should review the Student Campus Compact which applies to all Penn students in Philadelphia, regardless of whether you are living on or off campus, and will be strictly enforced. I am grateful to the many graduate student groups who have already met with colleagues in Wellness to partner with ensuring this message is shared with their constituencies. Please also note, that if you are uncomfortable with the requirements of the Compact, you should not return to campus.

Many of you are already returning to campus under your school’s Research Resumption plan or for clinical requirements, and others of you may be preparing to return for some in-person cohort activities in your academic program. If you are in either of those groups be on the look-out for communications either from the Wellness team, your program or my office about arranging time for your COVID-19 test. This will be provided free-of-charge to those approved to be on-campus.

And, as we are hearing questions from students on-campus, I wanted to remind you of several key points related to testing that can also be found in the FAQs related to the Compact.  University COVID-19 testing and notification protocols have been designed to protect individual student privacy while simultaneously safeguarding the Penn community:

  • Students who test positive for COVID-19 are covered by HIPAA and FERPA regulations. Campus Health will follow up with any student who tests positive to ensure the student self-isolates and gets the healthcare needed.
  • Campus Health will also conduct contact tracing without identifying the student source and will advise other students who have had high-risk exposure.
  • Penn’s Department of Environmental Health & Radiation Safety (EHRS) and the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) are responsible for contacting staff and faculty with high-risk exposure, again without identifying the COVID-positive student.
  • Students in quarantine or isolation will receive continued care and support from Student Health Service (SHS) and CAPS clinicians as needed or requested. Please remember that you are not in trouble for being sick or exposed.

There are additional protocols in place for students who have in-person academic requirements in clinical or field placement settings. Contact tracers will coordinate patient outreach with the school if a student in a clinical setting tests positive and has had recent patient interactions. Students in field placements will be required to report their COVID-19 status to the local health department where the field placement is located; the Philadelphia Department of Health can help coordinate this communication.

Any student with concerns about exposure to COVID-19 should contact SHS. Notification of illness and participation in contact tracing efforts is one of the top ways students can help support the health and safety of the Penn Community.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that this is a very challenging time, especially for students, like you, who are involved in academic training, have professional concerns, are caring for family, and are navigating the many challenges facing us today. I am continuing to review and develop mechanisms of support that are responsive to this very unique moment. I will keep you updated as details become available.


Be well,

Beth A. Winkelstein, Ph.D.Deputy Provost


Last Updated 07/31/2020 - 18:21