Frequently Asked Questions

Testing

  1. Am I required to undergo COVID-19 testing while on campus?

    There is no requirement for students, faculty, staff, or postdocs to test on campus. 

  2. Is gateway testing/pre-arrival testing required for students?

    To help protect our fellow Quakers and those in our surrounding communities, and to keep our return to in-person activity on campus as safe as possible, all students are encouraged to take an at-home COVID-19 test prior to traveling to campus. 

    If positive, students are required to isolate for five days after a positive COVID-19 test, followed by five days of strict mask use. Students are encouraged to complete their five days of isolation prior to coming to campus.  

    Students do not need to submit proof of a pre-arrival test to the University.

  3. Can I access testing while on campus?

    The University of Pennsylvania offers on-campus COVID-19 testing for the Penn community through the Penn Cares testing program. All testing is done through an observed, self-administered, nasal swab specimen. These tests are a molecular PCR. Testing is not required, but is available to those who are symptomatic, have been exposed to the virus, or would like to be tested for any other reason. The Penn community is also encouraged to utilize at-home tests or testing through their primary care provider. 

  4. How do I schedule a Penn Cares COVID-19 test on campus?

    All University community members must schedule their Penn Cares test online: covidscheduling.upenn.edu/.

    Please schedule your appointments and indicate your consent to testing (view copy of the consent form) by visiting the web-based scheduling application. If you need assistance, please consult this tip sheet (PDF).

    Appointments are booked at 15-minute intervals on a first-come, first-served basis. Scheduling in advance improves your chance of receiving your desired testing date/time/location. You must make or cancel any appointment at least 24 hours before the desired testing time. 

  5. How do I access my Penn Cares test results?

    Test results are expected within 24 hours. Individuals can look up their results by following the directions below: 

    1. Go to the COVID Results log-in page.
    2. Click on the login icon in the upper right-hand corner.
    3. Enter PennKey and Password.

    If a test result is positive, the participant will not see their results until a Penn Cares contract tracer reaches out to confirm your positive test via phone or secure message. Those who receive a positive result will be provided guidance from the contact tracers. Learn about testing positive for COVID-19.

    A test result may show inconclusive due to a contaminated or insufficient sample or other processing error. Participants should test again if they receive an inconclusive result. 

  6. What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 via Penn Cares testing or an at-home test?

    After testing positive through the Penn Cares Testing Program, you will be contacted by the Penn Cares contact tracing team and will be provided clinical and public health guidance.

    If you test positive for COVID-19 from an at-home test, you can refer to the most up-to-date public health guidance. If you need additional guidance, assistance with clinical care, or advice about contact tracing and notification of close contacts, you can reach our team via email at covidtesting@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-0300.

    University staff who are unable to work remotely while isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test are eligible for pay continuation independent of their accrued sick or PTO time, provided the Penn Cares contact tracing team has been notified regarding the positive COVID-19 test. This notification will be made automatically for staff who test positive through the Penn Cares Testing Program. If the test was performed at home or at a testing location other than the Penn Cares Testing Program, the staff member must notify the Penn Cares contact tracing team via email at covidtesting@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-0300. By submitting information to the Penn Cares contact tracing team, you are certifying that the information you provide is true and correct to the best of your knowledge according to the Principles of Responsible Conduct.

  7. I'm a student and I've tested positive, what can I do to take care of myself and others?

    You can…

    • Reach out to the Penn Cares contact tracing team at 215-898-0300 to help those you’ve seen receive guidance on next steps.
    • Create and review a roommate agreement with your household.
    • Be diligent about masking immediately and stay in your room as much as possible.
    • Reach out to Student Health and Counseling for medical care at 215-746-3535 if you are concerned about your symptoms.
    • Coordinate times, use good hand hygiene, and mask as much as possible when using shared bathrooms with others.
    • Pick up to-go food when others are unavailable to pick it up for you. For more instructions on how to order, go to Sick & Flu Policy | Penn Dining.
    • Go on walks for fresh air if you feel well enough, making sure you are complying with masking and distancing.
  8. My roommate tested positive, what can I do to take care of myself and others?

    You can…

    • Reach out to the Penn Cares contact tracing team at 215-898-0300 for guidance on what to do.
    • Create and review a roommate agreement with your household.
    • Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Mask and test right away if you develop symptoms.
    • Mask any time you want.
    • Coordinate times and use good hand hygiene when using shared bathrooms with others.
    • Eat meals outside and/or distanced from others.
    • Offer to pick up food or other supplies for those that are unwell.

Contact Tracing, Quarantine, and Isolation

  1. Will a contact tracer follow-up with me if I test positive?

    A contact tracer will follow-up with anyone who tests positive through the Penn Cares Testing Program to ensure the individual receives guidance on isolation and gets the needed healthcare. The contact tracer will also ask about activities leading up to infection and the contacts they may have had. These conversations are thorough, nuanced, and require collaboration between the individual and contact tracer.

    If you test positive for COVID-19 from an at-home test and need additional guidance, assistance with clinical care, or advice about contact tracing and notification of close contacts, you can reach our team via email at covidtesting@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-0300. University staff who are unable to work remotely while isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test are eligible for pay continuation independent of their accrued sick or PTO time, provided the Penn Cares contact tracing team has been notified regarding the positive COVID-19 test.

  2. How do I contact the Penn Cares contact tracing team?

    For guidance, assistance with clinical care, or advice about contact tracing and notification of close contacts, you can reach our team via email at covidtesting@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-0300.

  3. How long do I need to isolate for if I receive a positive COVID-19 test?

    The University requires all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs, regardless of vaccination status, to isolate for five days after a positive COVID-19 test, followed by five days of strict mask use. During the five days of masking following isolation, individuals should eat alone, maintain social distancing, and avoid in person meetings when able.

    Please note: Students must isolate in place. Visit the Students Testing Positive, Quarantine, and Isolation page for more information.

  4. Do I have to quarantine if I have a high-risk exposure to COVID-19?

    Per the recent update from the CDC regarding quarantine guidance, individuals who have a high-risk exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, are not required to quarantine and are permitted to attend class while masked. Those with an exposure should test immediately and then again five days after exposure. They should continue to monitor for symptoms and wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask for 10 days post-exposure. If symptoms present, they should test immediately. 

    Visit the Students Testing Positive, Quarantine, and Isolation page for more information.

  5. Where should students isolate if COVID-19 positive?

    All Penn students are required to isolate in their rooms (if living on or off campus). This includes those who share an on-campus bedroom. Positive students should stay at home and mask whenever they are in the company of others. All people in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal. If meal delivery or pick-up by others is not possible, students may pick up to-go food while diligently masking and maintaining social distancing. Masks must be worn anytime you are outside of the bedroom. Do not travel, go to class, work, or participate in any social activities. Do not host friends or gatherings. Do not attend gatherings.

    Proper cleaning of surface areas should be a priority for all in isolation.

    Visit the Students Testing Positive, Quarantine, and Isolation page for more information.

  6. How can students access meals while in isolation?

    All people in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal.

    It is important that students on a dining plan understand how to access their meals when they are sick or in isolation. For more information visit the Penn Dining site.

Masking

  1. Am I required to wear a mask on campus?

    Masks are optional (but encouraged) while on campus, including on Penn Transit. Masks are still required in all healthcare spaces.

    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. Students are required to comply with the masking requirements established by their instructors.

    The Penn community is encouraged to wear a properly-fitting, high-quality mask (preferably a surgical mask, KN95/KF94, N95, or EHRS-recommended Aries mask as opposed to a single layer cloth mask), regardless of masking requirements, in the following situations:

    • if, for any reason, you want to
    • if you are not up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations
    • if you are immunocompromised and personally at high risk
    • if you are in frequent close contact with someone who is high risk
    • if you have COVID-19 symptoms 
    • if you test positive for COVID-19
    • if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
    • if you live in an area with substantial or high spread of the virus
    • if you are traveling
  2. Are masks required in healthcare spaces?

    Yes, masks remain a requirement in all healthcare spaces on campus.

  3. Are masks required in 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. Students are required to comply with the masking requirements established by their instructors.

  4. Do masks still protect me from COVID-19?

    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. 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. 

    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.

    As a result, “my well-fitting, high-quality mask protects me,” is the new public health slogan. Wearing a high quality and well-fitting mask offers 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. 

  5. What masks offer the best protection?

    The Penn community is encouraged to wear a properly-fitting, high-quality mask (preferably a surgical mask, KN95/KF94, N95, or EHRS-recommended Aries mask as opposed to a single layer cloth mask).

Vaccination and Booster Shots

  1. Am I required to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

    Students

    Students are required to be fully up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines (including the COVID-19 booster shot), and must submit documentation of vaccination to their Wellness Portal

    Online students who do not plan to come to campus are not required to report their vaccine status and there will be no consequence for not reporting it.

    Visit the Vaccinations page for the latest requirements and access to information, instructions, and request forms for medical and religious exemptions.

    Faculty, Staff, Postdocs

    Faculty, staff, and postdocs are required to receive the primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine (two doses of mRNA vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson), and are strongly encouraged to be boosted. Faculty, staff, and postdocs should upload their vaccine information into Workday (Requires PennKey.) Step-by-step instructions for uploading vaccine information into Workday can be found here: Self Service: Enter Vaccination Information.

  2. Can I apply for a vaccination exemption for medical or religious reasons?

    Visit the Vaccinations page for the latest instructions and request forms for medical and religious exemptions.

  3. When am I eligible to receive my COVID-19 booster shot?

    The updated (bivalent) booster vaccinations are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5. The CDC recommends that people ages 5 years and older receive one updated (bivalent) booster if it has been at least 2 months since their last COVID-19 vaccine dose, whether that was:

    • Their final primary series dose, or
    • An original (monovalent) booster

    People who have gotten more than one original (monovalent) booster are also recommended to get an updated (bivalent) booster.

    Visit the CDC COVID-19 Booster Info page for more information.

  4. Should I receive a booster after a positive COVID-19 test?

    Those who test positive for 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. Those who experienced severe COVID-19 symptoms should follow-up with their primary care physician for specific guidance for their booster.

    If you recently had COVID-19, you may consider delaying your next vaccine dose (primary dose or booster) by 3 months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you first received a positive test.

    Reinfection is less likely in the weeks to months after infection. However, certain factors, such as personal risk of severe disease, or risk of disease in a loved one or close contact, local COVID-19 Community Level, and the most common COVID-19 variant currently causing illness, could be reasons to get a vaccine sooner rather than later.

  5. Which vaccines will be accepted by the University?

    Accepted Vaccines

    Penn will accept those vaccines that have been “pre-qualified” or authorized for “Emergency Use Listing” (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO) evaluation process. As of July 27, 2022, that list includes:

    • Pfizer-BioNTech (fully approved by the U.S. FDA)
    • Moderna
    • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen
    • AstraZeneca 
    • Covishield
    • Sinopharm
    • Sinovac
    • Novavax
    • Covovax
    • Convidecia
    • Covaxin
  6. What does it mean to be "fully vaccinated"?

    An individual is not considered fully vaccinated until they have completed a primary series:

    • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series (example: Pfizer or Moderna vaccines) or
    • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (example: Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine)
  7. What does it mean to "up-to-date" on my vaccines?

    An individual is considered fully vaccinated and "up-to-date" once they have received all recommended booster shots. Boosters include COVID vaccines received following the completion of a primary series. 

Other Public Health Measures

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

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

    Our public health efforts remain committed to: vaccination, ventilation, cleaning and hand hygiene, and masks are always encouraged.

  2. Is the student responsible for cleaning their own space on campus?

    Yes, students are responsible for cleaning their own spaces. The University will continue its commitment to cleaning common spaces (e.g. lounges and bathrooms), but students are in charge of cleaning their bedrooms, personal bathrooms, apartments, etc.

  3. Are there any current restrictions around dining?

    There are no current policies around dining, but there are best practices:

    • Prioritize outdoor meals over indoor
    • Pre-packaged or boxed meals should be prioritized over buffet
    • Hand sanitizer should be made widely available if hosting an event with food
  4. Should I still use PennOpen Pass?

    PennOpen Pass is no longer being used as a public health tool by the University community.

    PennOpen Pass is still being used by employees of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), as well as University employees and students who are working or training onsite at a UPHS facility. These individuals must login with their UPHS network username and password, rather than with their PennKey. This can be done by choosing the “Sign in with UPHS Network Username/Password” when signing in to the PennOpen Pass website. If you need to reset your UPHS password: https://reset.uphs.upenn.edu/. If you need help with your UPHS password, contact the UPHS Service Desk at 215-662-7474. If you are an employee of UPHS or a University employee or student who is working or training onsite at a UPHS facility and have questions about use of PennOpen Pass, call the COVID Resource Call Center at 215-573-7096.

  5. Should I be concerned about the ventilation in my residential building?

    Campus buildings’ air systems already use a filter that exceeds the recommendation from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for removing COVID-19. Per ASHRAE, risk from central air systems is significantly less compared to individuals not wearing face coverings, not washing hands, and not abiding by physical distancing protocols.