Public Health Guidance
Public health guidance on campus continues to evolve. The following are updates as of January 4, 2023:
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, which are available while supplies last at the Penn Cares Testing Site and at most pharmacies, or testing through their primary care provider. Most U.S. health insurance companies will cover the cost of rapid COVID tests from local pharmacies.
Those who test positive through the Penn Cares testing program will be contacted by the Contact Tracing Team. If you test positive on 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 email@example.com or by phone at 215-898-0300.
Visit the Testing Program page for more information.
Isolation and Quarantine
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.
Individual responsibility is key and all members of the community will be expected to dutifully wear masks around others when required.
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 and/or go to work 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.
Masks are optional (but encouraged) while on campus, including on Penn Transit. Masks are still required in all healthcare spaces.
Masking is always an option for anyone who chooses to wear a mask for any reason. 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
Vaccinations and Boosters
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.
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. Step-by-step instructions for uploading vaccine information into Workday can be found here: Self Service: Enter Vaccination Information.
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.
Visit the Vaccinations page for the latest instructions and request forms for medical and religious exemptions.
Individual responsibility is key to help protect the health of the Penn campus and our surrounding communities.
Everyone must continue to be mindful of good hygiene habits, like washing hands and keeping surfaces clean. 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.
Those traveling to the US from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau will require a negative COVID-19 test no more than two days before departure. More information is available on the CDC website.
Additionally, according to the CDC, individuals should not travel until a full 10 days after the start of symptoms or the date a positive test was taken. View more travel-related guidance from the CDC.
Anyone coming from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should be mindful of guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the City of Philadelphia. All travelers, even those who are fully vaccinated, are encouraged to wear a mask while traveling. State and local travel guidance is fluid and changes frequently.
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
Special Events and Gatherings with Visitors
- Gatherings with visitors (that are not course meetings in classrooms with members of the Penn Community) are strongly recommended to meet the following guidelines:
- Held in larger spaces or outside if possible
- Welcome the use of face coverings
- Continue to have hand sanitizer available.
- In addition, we offer the following general guidance for Schools, Centers, Departments, and Student Groups that plan to conduct events:
- Ensure easy access to hand hygiene facilities and supplies.
- Remind people that requirements may change on the day of the event.
- Fire safety or occupancy limits should be observed.
- Event staff and working University personnel must follow all University COVID-19 protocols.
- Students who may need special academic accommodations should visit the Weingarten Learning Resource Center.
- Faculty, staff, and postdocs needing workplace accommodations should visit the Office of Affirmative Action.
Public health guidance at the University may differ from what has been advised at the state and federal level. Guidance may change depending on COVID-19 severity.
For information about the CDC's guidance and Philadelphia County's specific communiy transmission, visit the CDC's COVID-19 County Check
Following the University’s public health guidance is supported by the Code of Student Conduct.