Faculty, Postdocs & Staff FAQs

This information is continually updated based on current public health guidance. 

Quarantine and Isolation

  1. What is the current isolation guidance for students, faculty, staff, and postdocs at the University?

    As of March 2022, the University requires all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs, regardless of vaccination status, to isolate for ten days after testing positive for COVID-19, with a chance to return to campus life on day 8 with a negative rapid antigen test. All positive cases must be asymptomatic OR have improving symptoms and be fever free to be cleared to return to campus.

    Individual responsibility is key and all members of the community will be expected to dutifully wear masks around others when required. Return from isolation dates are subject to change depending on the specific circumstances. Should further clarification and guidance be needed, a contact tracer will follow-up on a case-by-case basis.

  2. What is the current quarantine guidance for students, faculty, staff, and postdocs at the University?

    As of March 2022, individuals who are unvaccinated or not up to date (i.e. not boosted) with a high-risk exposure to a confirmed COVID case (such as a housemate or intimate partner) must quarantine for 10 days, with a chance of returning to campus life on day 8 after a negative PCR test through the PennCares testing system. Those who are fully up-to-date on vaccines (i.e. boosted) do not need to quarantine, but are recommended to test immediately and then again 5 days after exposure. They should continue to monitor for symptoms.

  3. Will students still be isolating in on-campus housing?

    Yes, isolation space on campus is available to students. If a surge in positivity takes place and 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. 

COVID-19 Vaccination and Booster

Vaccine and Booster Requirements

  1. Is the COVID-19 vaccine and booster required for Penn faculty, staff, and postdocs?

    The University requires all current faculty, staff, and postdocs to be fully vaccinated, including the COVID-19 booster shot, except for those with medical or religious exemptions. Unless you are granted an exemption, failure to report full vaccination will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Access the latest information on vaccinations and exemptions.

    Anyone who is not yet eligible for the booster must receive the shot within 30 days of becoming eligible. Individuals who were previously approved for a medical or religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be contacted if they need to re-apply for an exemption. 

  2. How do I request a medical or religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine and booster?

    Please download the exemption forms located on the Vaccinations page. Each form explains the qualifying criteria for exemption and how to complete and submit the request form. If the University does not approve your request, you must comply with the University mandate to be fully vaccinated and report the details in Workday.


  3. How do I upload my vaccine documentation?

    Upload your vaccination information in Workday; access self-service instructions on the Workday@Penn website.

    For questions about the Workday process, please contact the Penn Employee Solution Center at 217-898-7372 or email solutioncenter@upenn.edu.

  4. If I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or experience side effects from the vaccine, do I need to use paid sick time?

    Yes, if you are taking time away from work to attend a vaccine appointment, or if you need time off as a result of receiving a vaccine, you must submit to use paid time off or sick time. 

  5. If I am fully vaccinated, do I still have to participate in Penn Cares Screening Testing?

    Visit the Testing Program page for the latest screening testing reqiurements. 

  6. What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals are considered to be fully vaccinated:

    • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines
    • 2 weeks after a single-dose, such as Johnson & Johnson's Janseen vaccine

    If you do not meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated and should take all safety precautions until you are fully vaccinated. 

  7. How many doses will I need to get?

    The vaccines that are currently available and authorized by the Federal Drug Administration are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna both require two doses in order to provide protection against COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose. 

    In addition to the original two dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and the one dose of Johnson & Johnson, a booster shot is also required five months after a two-dose series and two months after a one dose vaccine. 

  8. Can I get a different type of vaccine for my booster shot?

    Yes, the CDC and FDA have approved mixing vaccine manufacturers for the booster shot. 

  9. Which vaccines will be accepted?

    Penn will accept the vaccines listed below: 

    • Pfizer-BioNTech (fully approved by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration)
    • Moderna (granted emergency use authorization (EUA) through the United States’ Food and Drug Administration)
    • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (granted emergency use authorization (EUA) through the United States’ Food and Drug Administration)

    Additionally, there are numerous vaccines that are available in other countries. Penn will accept those that have been “pre-qualified” or authorized for “Emergency Use Listing” (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO) evaluation process. As of June 4, this list also includes:

    • AstraZeneca/Oxford
    • Covishield
    • Sinopharm
    • Sinovac

    Additional vaccines may be authorized in the coming months. The WHO vaccine evaluation list can be found on the WHO's Emergency Use Listing for COVID-19 Vaccines page, under the Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ evaluation process link. When accessing this document, the word "finalized" must appear under Status of Assessment. 

  10. How do I know if my colleagues at work are vaccinated?

    The University requires all faculty, staff, and postdocs, as well as students, to be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. If an individual is exempt from vaccination, is not boosted, or has not uploaded their vaccine information into the appropriate system of record, they will be required to participate in screening testing twice each week. 

  11. I’m worried that working with someone who is not vaccinated may get me sick. What can I do?

    Being vaccinated and following all public health guidance are the best steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19. 

  12. How is the vaccine data I provide protected?

    Penn is committed to the responsible stewardship of the personal information collected. This information will be maintained securely, with access limited to those individuals engaged in health and safety functions for Penn all on a need-to-know basis.  For additional information about the privacy of COVID-19 vaccination information, please see the Privacy Disclosure, linked here.

  13. When am I eligible to receive a booster shot?

    According to the CDC, individuals are eligible for a booster five months after their second dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or two months after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Those who received a vaccine listed on the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot five months after completion of their vaccination series. For more information, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots website.

  14. Can I get the booster shot if I have/had COVID-19?

    Yes. People 16 years of age and older who experience COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated can, and should, receive a booster dose. People with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should defer vaccination until symptoms have improved and their isolation period is complete. If you have had severe COVID-19 symptoms, please follow-up with your primary care physician for specific guidance for your booster shot. 

About the COVID-19 Vaccine

  1. What have we learned about the vaccine since the first shots were administered?

    The vaccines have proven to be safe and highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. 

    Visit the CDC website for Key Things to Know about COVID-19 Vaccines.

  2. Do the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines contain blood products?

    The manufacturers of the currently-authorized mRNA vaccines, Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, have both indicated that no blood or blood products are used in the manufacturing of their vaccines, and the vaccines do not contain any products of human origin. The Pfizer product does contain materials from bovine milk, but no animal blood or blood products.

  3. Does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contain the COVID-19 virus?

    No, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not contain the COVID-19 virus. It is a vector vaccine. Vector vaccines use genetic material from the COVID-19 virus that is placed inside a weakened version of another virus, such as one of the viruses that causes the common cold. 

    The weakened virus is then injected into your body, delivering information from the COVID virus. That information instructs your cells to copy the spike protein that is unique to COVID-19 and create antibodies against the spike protein. It is impossible for a viral vector COVID vaccine to cause you to become infected with COVID-19, cause a common cold, or to change your DNA.

  4. Will the COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA?

    No. This myth may have arisen from the fact that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain messenger RNA. RNA is a type of genetic material, but it’s not the same as DNA. The RNA does not enter the cell nucleus, which is where your DNA lives. It does all of its work in your cell cytoplasm. That’s the outer portion of the cell. Plus, the instructions mRNA (created here at Penn) carries to your cells are only for a piece of SARSCoV-2, not the whole virus.

  5. Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

    No. It is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines.

  6. Are the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being used in the United States developed using fetal tissue?

    No. The COVID-19 vaccines that are either authorized or up for authorization in the United States were not developed — nor do they use in any way, shape, or form — any fetal tissue. Johnson & Johnson used fetal cell cultures when developing its vaccine, but it contains no fetal tissue or fetal cells.

  7. I’ve already had COVID-19. Am I required to get the vaccine?

    Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have already been sick with COVID-19. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person, and the evidence suggests natural immunity may not last long in some people.

  8. Should I be concerned the vaccine will negatively impact my health?

    The safety of our students, faculty, staff, and postdocs are our highest priority. More than 1.6 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. The risk of side effects from the vaccine is rare and outweighed by the risk of dying from COVID-19. In fact, the vaccines have been proven to be highly effective and safe. Very few recipients of the vaccine have developed COVID-19, and the vaccine has proven to be highly effective in preventing hospitalizations, death, and the spread of the virus.

Public Health Measures


  1. What is the current University masking guidance?

    The University's masking guidance is based on the recommendations from the City of Philadelphia and rates of positivity on campus. Currently, masks are strongly recommended in all indoor public and shared spaces, including classrooms. Masks are still required in healthcare spaces and on Penn Transit. 

    Visit the University's public health guidance page for more information about current masking guidance.

  2. Are masks currently required in classrooms?

    Cuurently, Masks are strongly recommended in all indoor public and shared spaces, including classrooms. Individual instructors may decide to require students to wear masks in their classroom and those who do should make that clear on their syllabus and to their students in the classroom. Visit the University's public health guidance page for more information about current masking guidance. 

  3. Does the University provide guidance on what kind of mask individuals should wear?

    Members of the Penn community should wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask, such as a surgical mask, KN95/KF94, N95, or EHRS-recommended Aries mask, as opposed to a single layer cloth mask.

  4. What if a student comes to class without a mask?

    Instructors who choose to require students to wear masks should enforce this requirement as they enforce other classroom behavioral expectations (e.g., no laptops). Often a simple reminder to mask can be an effective way to address this situation.

  5. What should an instructor do if a student in a class is not wearing a mask?

    Instructors should make it clear to their students if they are requiring masking in the classroom and the steps to take if students forget to mask. Students should be reminded if this is an expectation and directed to procure a mask before returning to class as per the instructor’s guidelines.

  6. Should I wear a mask even if restrictions are lifted?

    The CDC emphasizes that people should still wear face coverings in the following situations, no matter the current masking guidance:

    • if, for any reason, you want to
    • if you are not up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations
    • if you are personally at high risk
    • if you are in frequent close contact with someone who is high risk
    • if you have COVID symptoms 
    • if you test positive for COVID
    • if you go to an airport  
    • if you have been exposed to someone with COVID
    • if you live in an area with "substantial" or "high" spread of the virus (defined as 50 to 100, or 100 or more, respectively, new weekly cases per 100,000 people). 
  7. What is the new masking guidance from the CDC?

    Here is the CDC's guidance as of March 1, 2022. Masking is now linked to broader measures of community transmission instead of new cases or positivity rates. A community's COVID-19 level is now determined by a combination of three data points: 
    a.    New hospitalizations of COVID-19;
    b.    Current hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients or hospital capacity; 
    c.    New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the previous week.

    The designations rely on county-level metrics, and use data that counties provide to the CDC. If immunity from vaccine or prior infection holds and fewer people who contract COVID-19 develop severe disease, more counties would move into the low-risk designation.

    The new system moves beyond sheer numbers of new cases to look at how well the local healthcare system is coping. The idea behind the new formula is to focus on minimizing severe disease and ensuring that hospitals are able to cope with COVID -19 cases while still delivering standard care.

  8. What are the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels?

    CDC will release updated county-by-county risk levels every week on its website, putting every county in the country into one of these three categories.
    Low: This indicates the virus is having a limited effect on the healthcare system, with low levels of severe disease. For counties in this category, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated and boosted, along with testing when sick. 

    Medium: This means there are more people with severe disease, and communities are beginning to see an increase in how much COVID-19 is affecting their healthcare system. In addition to above measures, the agency recommends people in "medium" level counties who may be at increased risk talk to their healthcare providers about taking additional precautions, such as mask-wearing.

    High: At this level, there is a high level of severe disease and high potential for a community's healthcare system to become strained. The CDC recommends everyone in communities at this level wear a mask indoors and in schools, in addition to the precautions at the low and medium levels. 

    Under this new system, COVID-19 prevention recommendations for people living in low- and medium-risk counties are state that they should be vaccinated and boosted, and should get tested for COVID-19 if they are sick with COVID-like symptoms. In the medium-risk settings, people who are immunocompromised or who have chronic health conditions should discuss the merits of mask wearing with their doctors. Masking is required in counties with a high COVID community level.

  9. What is the current COVID Community Level in Philadelphia County?

    Here is the CDC map so you can determine Philadelphia County’s rating. Simply select Pennsylvania and Philadelphia County to find out the COVID Community Level.

  10. What if PDPH and the CDC offer differing recommendations?

    Local rules still prevail. The new CDC Guidance means that federal authorities no longer recommend indoor masking as a COVID precaution, but the final decision rests with local health authorities. The CDC's recommendations are merely guidance, and local governments and school districts must decide for themselves if their COVID metrics, vaccination rates and overall population risk level will permit mask removal now or in the coming months.

    For example, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has already said it was reviewing the CDC’s new guidance, but stated that “the safety restrictions in place in the city are based on local conditions and months of data specific to Philadelphia.”

  11. Is it too soon to stop masking indoors?

    While the CDC and PDPH both offer a more reassuring risk assessment, some have expressed a different opinion and recommend waiting, most notably the President of the American Medical Association. These differing opinions remind us that we all have the opportunity to continue to mask indoors if we choose to.

  12. Who does my mask protect?

    In the early days of the pandemic, it was very common to see “my mask protects you, your mask protects me,” slogans. Since then, the masks we wear have changed, as has SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    While we promoted cloth masks for the longest time, we now realize that two layers of cloth do not provide optimal protection as the virus has become more transmissible. The CDC now recommends wearing the highest quality mask possible, of a quality at least equal to, if not superior to, a disposable surgical mask.

    As a result, “my high quality mask protects me,” is the new public health slogan. Wearing a high quality and well-fitting mask confers more individual protection than requiring an entire group to wear any mask, especially when community transmissions levels are low. 

    There will also be other reasons to continue to utilize a mask: you personally consider yourself high risk, you are travelling, you don’t feel well, or you may have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19. As we move into the next phase of COVID-19, we will individually have to make these decisions for ourselves. 

Other Public Health Guidance

  1. What is the University's current public health guidance?

    For the most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Guidance page. 

  2. Do I need to continue using PennOpen Pass even if I have been fully vaccinated?

    The daily use of PennOpen Pass is required for all on campus to report symptoms and/or exposures to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within the community. Symptom checks must be completed before the start of each day, including on weekends, to reduce the risk that any COVID-19 case could lead to an outbreak. 

    This tool also helps connect users to official public health guidance and clinical support. Although it is not required for entry into most on-campus buildings, it is needed for entry into healthcare spaces, including Penn Medicine facilities, the Penn Cares testing sites, and Student Health and Counseling offices. 

    Everyone on campus should complete their daily symptom and exposure check.  Be prepared to follow the guidance if PennOpen Pass provides a Red Pass. Be prepared to show a Green Pass as individual Schools and Centers may require its use for building entry.

  3. How should I enter my symptoms in PennOpen Pass in the first 48 hours after receiving my COVID-19 vaccine?

    Do not report symptoms of unusual fatigue, fevers, or chills if you received a COVID vaccine within the past 48 hours. If you have other symptoms or these symptoms persist beyond 48 hours, report as usual. After 48 hours, PennOpen Pass will help distinguish between symptoms related to the vaccine and those which require other clinical guidance.

  4. Where can I find COVID-19 academic information and resources?

    Visit the COVID-19 Academic Information and Resources page provides information about academic issues and resources for students and instructors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For all academic matters, students should continue to work with their academic advisors and advising offices.

    Additionally, the Provost’s Office has developed an FAQ for instructors that includes information about teaching while masked, classroom protocols, and other resources.   

  5. What is the current guidance around social events and gatherings?

    Visit the Public Health Guidance page for the most up-to-date information.

  6. Can study breaks and other scheduled grab-and-go events still proceed?

    Yes, student study breaks and other scheduled grab-and-go events can proceed for the remainder of the semester.

  7. Can students still eat with friends in a Dining Hall?

    Yes, students are still permitted to eat with their friends in Dining Halls, but students should continue to prioritize outdoor eating when possible. 

Classroom and Workplace Exposure

  1. What is a close contact?

    Close contacts are identified as housemates, roommates, intimate partners, and those who spent 15+ minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case without masks. 

  2. What is the current risk of exposure in classrooms or workplace?

    Classroom and workplace exposure to a positive COVID case falls under the low-risk / no-risk exposure category in a highly vaccinated, appropriately ventilated classroom or workplace. 

  3. What does the University do when a student tests positive?

    A contact tracer will follow-up with any student who tests positive to ensure the person isolates and gets any needed healthcare, receives public health guidance, and to identify and notify, confidentially, any close contacts.

  4. What does the University do when faculty or staff test positive?

    Faculty and staff who test positive will be notified by Occupational Medicine and instructed to isolate, will be offered any needed healthcare, and will receive public health guidance. Contact tracers will be in touch to do a case interview and help notify, confidentially, any close contacts.

  5. What is contact tracing? How is it conducted?

    Contact tracing is the process by which we determine the risk to other members of the community from a positive case. Trained members of the tracing team will contact the positive case and ask about activities leading up to infection in order to identify the close contacts that may have been exposed. These conversations are thorough, nuanced, and require collaboration between the individual and contact tracer. Notifications are sent to those who have had confirmed exposures of within 6 ft, for 15 minutes or more, without masks. The notification of contacts is performed without identifying the source, but anyone who has had an exposure will be encouraged to monitor symptoms and get tested.

  6. Under what circumstances will an instructor be notified if a student in their course tests positive?

    A student may contact the instructor directly to make them aware of their absence. In this scenario, no further action is necessary by the instructor unless they hear from our contact tracing team. Instructors will only be notified directly if contact tracing reveals evidence of behaviors suggesting medium or high risk exposure.

  7. What should an instructor do if they learn that a student in their course tests positive? May an instructor shift a course to remote delivery?

    No action is required of instructors if they learn of a positive student in their course. If many students are absent, and in accordance with their School's guidance, instructors may consider temporarily going to remote delivery because of decreased attendance. Schools with undergraduate programs can provide guidance for short-term shifts to remote delivery in undergraduate courses. Instructors must consult this guidance to determine if they may offer course sessions online, and if so, how long they may do so before returning to in-person instruction. Instructors must consult their dean or department chair before offering sessions for graduate courses online.

    Instructors who are concerned about a possible exposure risk but have not been contacted by our contact tracing team may identify this exposure through PennOpen Pass or schedule a COVID test through the Penn Cares testing site.

  8. Under what circumstances will faculty or staff learn if a colleague tests positive?

    If the contact tracers determine that others have a medium or high risk exposure through the interview with the positive case, those individuals will be alerted and provided public health guidance.

  9. What should instructors do differently for different levels of risk?

    The guidance associated with low-risk exposure consists of daily symptom monitoring without any need for quarantining or prescribed testing. Since daily symptom monitoring is expected of all members of the Penn community through PennOpen Pass, this is the best course of action. Anyone who learns about a colleague or student who has tested positive and has not been contacted by our contact tracing team should continue to monitor their symptoms daily. If anyone has any concerns about their exposure risk, and believes they had a medium or high risk exposure to this individual, e.g., shared a meal, they should report this through PennOpen Pass and will be connected with our contact tracing team. They can also schedule a COVID test through PennCares testing.


  1. What is the University's current screening testing guidance?

    Visit the University's Public Health Guidance page for current screening testing guidance.

  2. What happens if I test positive on an at-home test?

    If you test positive on an at-home test, report the result in PennOpen Pass and go to a PennCares facility to receive a confirmatory PCR test right away.

  3. What happens if I test positive during screening testing?

    Visit the University's Public Health Guidance page for current quarantine and isolation guidance.

  4. What is screening testing?

    Screening is intended to identify COVID-19 positivity even if there are no symptoms or known exposure. Visit the University's Public Health Guidance page for current screening testing guidance.

  5. What are the guidelines for scheduling a screening test?

    Visit the University's Public Health Guidance page and Testing Program page for the latest screening testing requirements.

  6. What is saliva-based screening?

    Saliva-based testing allows the University to dramatically increase our screening testing capacity. Through our partnership with Penn Medicine, we can offer as many as 40,000 screening tests per week. This FDA-approved, saliva-based assay protocol is effective.

  7. What method is used for SARS-CoV-2 testing in the Penn Cares program?

    For SARS-CoV-2 testing, the Penn Cares program uses a saliva-based assay manufactured by Fluidigm (Advanta Dx SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Assay). This test is specific for SARS-CoV-2 and does not detect other common respiratory pathogens.

  8. Does the test method used in the Penn Cares program have an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

    Yes, the Fluidigm Advanta Dx SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Assay has an EUA from the FDA

  9. Why are we testing saliva for SARS-CoV-2 and how does it compare to nasal swab?

    Saliva is an ideal sample for SARS-CoV-2 testing for many reasons. For one thing, it is easy, safe, and non-invasive to collect. It also compares favorably to nasal swabs in terms of detection rate. The University’s new Saliva COVID-19 Testing Laboratory performed verification studies with more than 1,700 paired nasal swab and saliva samples collected from the University population in the fall of 2020. The saliva and nasal swab results were equivalent in over 99% of cases. 

  10. What does a “Not Detected” result mean?

    A “Not Detected” result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the evaluated saliva sample. However, it is possible for this test to give a negative result that is incorrect (false negative) in some people infected with SARS-CoV-2. Some possible reasons for such a false negative result include:

    • The level of virus may be too low to detect, which may happen during early or late infection.
    • A variant virus with mutations in one or more gene targets may affect detection. 
    • Biologic variation of infection in different individuals
    • The specimen may be suboptimal which could impact detection (see inconclusive results below)

    Based on currently available data for the asymptomatic University community population, a negative result predicts a greater than 99% likelihood that the participant was not infected with SARS-CoV-2 at the time of sample collection. There is almost a 0% probability of having COVID-19 with consecutive negative results. The Penn Cares program helps minimizes the impact of false negative results by using recurring scheduled testing, which is why the University requires participants to comply with screening requirements.

  11. What does a “Positive” result mean?

    With a positive test result, it is very likely that the tested individual is infected with SARS-CoV-2 and may have COVID-19, whether or not they show any symptoms. The University has procedures in place when a student tests positive or a faculty or staff member tests positive. A smaller possibility exists that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false positive result) particularly when used in a population without many cases of COVID-19 infection. 

  12. What does an “Inconclusive” result mean?

    An inconclusive result is one that was neither clearly positive or negative or for which testing was not successful despite repeat attempts. This could be due to the consistency of the saliva or the presence of a substance that inhibits the test (such as food or other materials in the saliva). When providing the next sample after an inconclusive result be sure to follow stated guidelines to not eat, drink, chew gum or put anything in your mouth for 30 minutes before testing. In addition, the ideal saliva sample is collected by drooling rather than spitting into the tube. Excessive bubbles, mucus, and phlegm can affect the ability to perform testing.

  13. What is diagnostic testing?

    Diagnostic testing is intended to identify COVID-19 when there is a reason to suspect that an individual may be infected, such as having symptoms or suspected recent exposure, or to determine resolution of infection. PennOpen Pass will continue to help those who need testing based on symptoms or a notification of exposure to COVID-19. The University administers the nasal PCR test.

  14. When can I cancel or reschedule a test?

    Make every effort to reschedule or cancel your test appointment 24 hours prior to the testing time. If it is less than 24 hours, please make a new test appointment so that you are compliant with your particular testing protocol.

  15. How safe are the testing sites?

    One of the criteria used for selecting the testing sites was how well the space could support public health recommendations. Information continues to evolve on guidelines for indoor spaces, but all testing sites comply with the following guidelines:

    • at least six feet of distance between participants
    • one-way circulation through the sites
    • reduced occupancies
    • mask wearing

    Ventilation systems of all the sites were evaluated by a third-party mechanical contractor in January 2021. The results were reviewed by Penn’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety. All sites have been optimized for increased ventilation following guidelines, as of January 2021, provided by the City of Philadelphia for ventilation of indoor environments.

Contact Tracing

  1. What happens to close contacts?

    Close contacts who are identified to be at-risk of exposure to a confirmed case are notified to quarantine and offered post-exposure testing. It's important to follow public health guidance on testing, because testing too soon post-exposure may result in inaccurate test results.

  2. I just found out I may have been exposed to a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case. What do I do now?

    Don’t panic. There are a couple ways you may find out about a potential exposure to a case.

    • First, understand how you can be exposed. Exposure most commonly occurs through close contact. Close contact is defined as housemates, roommates, intimate partners, and those who spent 15+ minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case.
    • If you learned of a potential exposure and have not been contacted by a contact tracer, please use PennOpen Pass to report your exposure.
    • If you have been notified by a contact tracer, it is important to follow all the instructions provided. Pay close attention to your testing, quarantine, or isolation dates.

    It's important that you do not get tested right away. It may take time for the virus to take form in the body and show up on a test. Testing too early may lead to an inaccurate test result.

  3. My peer is a confirmed case, why hasn’t anyone contacted me?

    Your name likely did not come up in the investigation. Close contacts are identified as housemates, roommates, intimate partners, and those who spent 15+ minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case. The risk level of each contact will be assigned after the completion of a case investigation where detailed information about the exposure will be collected from the case or PUI (person under investigation). If you feel you fit this description, please complete your PennOpen Pass, marking “yes” for contact with a lab confirmed case of COVID-19, and follow the instructions given. This will likely include calling the PennOpen Pass Call Center at 215-573-6355.

Life During Quarantine and Isolation

  1. How long do I need to quarantine if I have exposure?

    Visit the Public Health Guidance page for information. 

  2. Can I see and be around anyone else living in my home during my quarantine?

    A recommendation to quarantine includes the advice to stay home, limit the sharing of bathrooms and common areas (e.g. kitchens, living rooms) with others, increase cleaning of common areas, and physically distancing from others in your home or apartment as much as possible. Penn community members who are asked to quarantine should not travel, go to class, work, or participate in any social activities. They should not host friends or gatherings, and they should not attend gatherings. They should also wear a mask or face covering anytime you are not alone.

  3. I have previously tested positive; do I still need to be tested and/or quarantine/isolate?

    Those who have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 90 days should test if new symptoms present. Individuals should use PennOpen Pass every day in case new symptoms or exposures arise during the 90-day period. 

  4. What support will be available for me during my isolation at home?

    Faculty and staff have access to COVID Watch, a Penn Medicine program that provides automated remote monitoring for 14 days of COVID-19 patients isolating at home. COVID Watch checks in to see how you are feeling and quickly identifies if you need medical attention and escalates care to a provider or emergency department.


  1. What is the University’s travel quarantine policy?

    Anyone coming from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should be mindful of guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the City of Philadelphia. Traveling remains a risky activity for COVID-19. All travelers, even those who are vaccinated, should continue to wear a mask while traveling, distance when possible, and practice good hand hygiene.

    Travel guidance is fluid and changes frequently.

  2. What are the University’s travel guidelines and procedures?

    For Penn-affiliated Travel:

    Faculty and Staff Travel

    • The Division of Human Resources provides travel guidance for faculty and staff on page 10 of the Return to Campus Guide.
  3. Will the University provide testing information for travel documentation?

    The Penn Cares testing results display the necessary information for travel in most cases. All travelers should check with their airline prior to traveling to ensure they have proper documentation. If additional information is needed other than what is displayed on the Penn Cares testing results page, you must seek testing elsewhere.