Student 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?

    Students may be able to isolate in on-campus housing if space is available. 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. 

  4. What are the guidelines for students who are isolating in their academic room?

    For all Penn community members, isolation means staying at home, in your bedroom, except to use the bathroom. All people in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal. Masks or facial coverings 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.

    Students who live locally may go home to quarantine or isolate. However, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health requires a conversation between the student, parent(s)/guardian(s), and campus contact tracers to review the quarantine plan.

  5. How will students get SIQ meals?

    When a student is moved to into an isolation facility, they are provided information about how to order meals. For residents who are isolating in their residential building, they can go to one of the on-campus dining cafes to pick up their grab-and-go SIQ meal

  6. I live in a suite/apartment with a roommate who is isolating. What should I be doing to keep myself healthy while sharing a suite/apartment with a roommate who has COVID?

    University contact tracers are here to support you. Your specific guidance is dependent on your vaccination status. Students should use PennOpen Pass to report new or worsening symptoms. Students should mask around the infected housemate/roommate at all times, eat meals distanced from others, spend as much time outside, and circulate air in shared rooms. Practice good hand hygiene by cleaning your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

  7. Who is enforcing the expectations? What happens if my roommate is not following guidelines?

    Wellness at Penn informs students about guidelines and expectations when isolating. If students have any concerns about how their peers are following guidelines, they are encouraged to reach out to their House Director. 

  8. I live in a suite/apartment with a roommate who is isolating. I want to request a room change/cancel my housing contract. Can I do that?

    We know that this is still an uncertain time, and we are working closely with our campus partners to ensure both a safe environment for our students and to provide support and assistance. The University has protocols around how best to manage COVID in a campus environment and we are closely adhering to that guidance.

    Students are unable to cancel their housing assignment. 

    We encourage you to reach out to your roommate to discuss your concerns. Our partners in College Houses & Academic Services are a great resource for residents, and they would be able to support you as you consider how to have this conversation. You can reach out to College Houses & Academic Services at chas@collegehouses.upenn.edu.

  9. I am immuno-compromised/have a disability. I feel unsafe living with someone who has tested positive. What can I do?

    For questions about your specific health considerations, you are encouraged to reach out to the contact tracers who can work directly with you regarding your questions. You can respond to the secure message in your Student Health portal they have sent you.

  10. 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. 

  11. I am isolating in my residential building. Can I go to different places in my residential building?

    Students are expected to spend the duration of their isolation period in their place of residence. All people in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal. If you do not have someone to pick up your meal you may leave your room to get your meal(s). They can be picked up at the cashier station. You are not allowed to enter the dining café. Masks or facial coverings 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.

  12. I am isolating in my residential building. Can I participate in the House programming?

    Residents are encouraged to participate in virtual programming while they are in isolation. They can reach out to their RA about remaining engaged. As always, you should follow the current guidance regarding participation and engagement as provided by the University.

  13. Will the University provide cleaning for our common spaces in suites/apartments if my roommate has to isolate in their academic room? Will they clean our common spaces or bathrooms at the conclusion of the isolation?

    Because COVID is an respiratory illness, the most important thing for students to do to remain healthy and keep the community safe is to follow masking procedures and remaining in your room. 

  14. What if I’m living in a double bed space with a roommate who has COVID? How will I remain safe?

    COVID-19 vaccination and masking will help protect you. Students should mask around the infected housemate/roommate at all times, eat meals distanced from others, spend as much time outside, and circulate air in shared rooms. If you live locally, you can consider quarantining at home.

  15. I have received my vaccines and booster. Will that ensure that I remain healthy?

    The following public health measures remain our primary tools to minimize virus transmission:

    • getting vaccinated and boosted
    • following the masking guidance provided by your contact tracer, the University, and/or the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (see the latest guidance)
    • hand washing
    • staying home when feeling sick
    • completing daily PennOpen Pass symptom checker and exposure reporting
  16. What if I share an elevator/stairwell with someone who has COVID? Am I likely to get sick?

    Given the short duration of elevator rides, they have not been a source of exposure or infection on campus.  If you are concerned, masks are always encouraged and provide an additional level of protection.

  17. Is isolating in the College House a temporary measure? If I test positive for COVID later in the semester, will I be able to isolate in my room or will I be reassigned to isolation housing? If an isolation room opens in another facility can I move there t

    If you test positive for COVID, you will receive outreach and direct guidance from the contact tracers regarding where you should isolate.

  18. Will the University secure more isolation housing?

    At this time, we are not securing additional isolation housing. We will continue to follow guidance from public health officials regarding isolation housing.

  19. Will the University require students to wear masks in their residential buildings if residents are isolating in their rooms?

    The University will continue to follow guidance from the CDC and PDPH. Additionally, the CDC and University emphasize 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). 
  20. If we isolate in place, will my roommate/suitemate receive notification?

    Students will receive their quarantine and isolation guidance via secure message through the Student Health portal and may be called if additional follow-up is required. Students living with an infected housemate/roommate will be directed to quarantine and/or test based on their vaccination status. These guidelines are consistent with the guidance currently being issued to both on and off campus students. Students can always report a positive test or exposure to PennOpen Pass for immediate guidance.

COVID-19 Vaccination and Booster

Vaccine and Booster Requirements

  1. Are the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot mandatory for Penn students?

    Students, faculty, staff, and postdocs are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including the COVID-19 booster, and must submit documentation of vaccination in the appropriate system of record.

    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.

  2. Am I required to have screening testing if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

    Visit the Testing Program page for the most up-to-date screening testing guidance for all University members. 

  3. Will Penn offer the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Full vaccination prior to arrival on campus is required. For those students who were unable to access vaccine in their home locations, please visit vaccines.gov/search/

  4. 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 (fully approved by 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. 

  5. Should I delay getting the vaccine offered in my home country and wait until I arrive at Penn?

    At this time, Penn strongly encourages students, including international students, to get whatever vaccine is available to them. If a vaccine series is started that is not available in the US, Penn encourages you to finish that vaccine series before traveling to the US. COVID-19 continues to spread globally resulting in serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccination is the best way to prevent spread of virus and new variants.

    It is expected that guidelines for those receiving international vaccines will continue to evolve. Please submit proof of vaccination to the Student Health portal: 

  6. I received a COVID-19 vaccine that is not available in the US, should I be re-vaccinated here?

    If a vaccine series is started that is not available in the US, Penn encourages you to finish that vaccine series before traveling to the US. COVID-19 continues to spread globally resulting in serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Vaccination is the best way to prevent spread of virus and new variants.

    It is expected that guidelines for those receiving international vaccines will continue to evolve. Please submit proof of vaccination to the Student Health portal. 

  7. Where should I upload my vaccine record?

    Immunization records should be uploaded to the Student Health Service portal. 

  8. How many doses will I need to get?

    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. 

  9. 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. 

  10. How will I know when it's time to come back for my second dose?

    The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine second dose will occur between 19-23 days following the first dose. The Moderna vaccine second dose will occur between 26-30 days following the first dose. 

  11. Will the University provide the booster shot/third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Visit the Getting Vaccinated page for more information.

  12. When am I eligible to receive the 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.

  13. Can I receive 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, death, and spread of the virus. 

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

  2. 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.

  3. Do I have to get the same type of vaccine for my second dose?

    Yes, the two doses received by either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech must be from the same manufacturer for both vaccines.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

Masking

  1. What is the current University masking guidance?

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

  2. 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). 
       
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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 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. 

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.

    Specific FAQs related to classroom guidance can be found here: COVID-19 FAQs for Students in the Classroom.

  5. What is the current guidance for 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.

  7. Can I still eat with my 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 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 COVID-19 positive person without masks. 

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

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

  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.

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 during screening testing?

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

  3. What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had an exposure?

    First, report your symptoms and/or exposure through your daily PennOpen Pass attestation. PennOpen Pass will provide guidance for testing and isolation. 

    If you're symptomatic, PennOpen Pass will connect you with Student Health if you need further instructions or medical care. 

    If you've had an exposure, PennOpen Pass will connect you with Campus Health for more instructoins and care.

    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?

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

  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 and don't test right away. Testing too early may lead to an innacurate result. Report your exposure through PennOpen Pass or call the University's contact tracers at 215-898-0300.

    Remember, COVID-19 spreads through close contact. Close contact is defined as housemates, roommates, intimate partners, and those who have spent 15+ minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case. Masks help reduce close contact situations. 

    University contact tracers are here to support you. Pay close attention to the testing, quarantine, or isolation guidance provided to you by the contact tracers. Students should reach out to Student Health if they develop symptoms or if symptoms worsen. If Campus Health and Student Health are aware of your exposure, they will reach out frequently throughout your quarantine to check on you and offer support. 

  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 the most up-to-date information. 

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

    For the most up-to-date information, visit the Testing Positive page. A recommendation to quarantine includes the advice to stay home, mask around others, 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. 

  3. How are you going to monitor off campus students to ensure they stick to quarantines?

    All students in quarantine or isolation will have regular check-ins from the University. Penn expects all students to adhere to the same public health guidance as part of the student Code of Conduct, regardless of whether they live on or off campus.

  4. 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. If you have tested positive within 90 days, you should make sure you upload a copy of your positive lab result to your Student Health Portal for review. If you tested positive, but it was more than 90 days ago, you are required to follow the public health guidance

  5. What support will be available for me during my quarantine, whether I live on campus or off campus?

    In all instances of quarantine and isolation, students will receive continued care and support from Wellness at Penn through COVID Navigator, an automated, text-based support program that monitors students and connects them with wellness resources based on a student's individual needs.

    The Wellness resources include:

    • Medical and mental healthcare services through Wellness at Penn's Student Health and Counseling Services
    • Quarantine and isolation guidance and support through Campus Health
    • Resources for those needing help with food access, academic support and more through the Social Needs Response Team (SNRT)

    Find out more about the COVID Navigator program.

  6. What happens to my meals if I am on the dining plan?

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that students on a dining plan understand how to access their meals when they are sick, in quarantine, or isolation or Students can follow instructions on the Penn Dining site.

  7. If I live on campus and test positive for COVID-19, where will I spend my isolation period?

    Students who reside on campus and test positive for COVID-19 are reassigned campus housing if there is capacity for the duration of the isolation period. If capacity is reached, students will be advised to isolate in place. 

  8. If I live off campus and test positive for COVID-19, where should I be isolating?

    Students who live off campus are expected to spend the duration of their isolation period in their place of residence. All people in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal. Masks or facial coverings 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.

COVID-19 Guidance for Students in Fully Online Programs

  1. Do I need to be vaccinated if I am enrolled in a fully online program?

    COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, are required for all Penn students. Students in online programs 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.

  2. If I do plan to come to campus, how do I update my vaccine status?

    Vaccination information, including booster information, can be added to your Student Health record.

  3. If I do plan to come to campus, am I eligible for an exemption?

    Exemptions will only be provided for medical or religious reasons. The process for requesting exemptions is posted on the Student Health website.

  4. If I do not plan to come to campus, do I need to complete gateway and/or screening testing for COVID-19?

    COVID-19 testing is only required if a student in a fully online program needs to come to campus. If you do not need to come to campus, you can disregard any communication about testing requirements for students.

  5. Should I schedule a test if I need to come to campus?

    If you do need to come to campus, you should schedule testing for at least 24 hours before you plan to enter campus facilities other than the campus testing location and complete the PennOpen Pass daily symptom tracker. Covid tests from an outside source cannot be used to clear a Red Pass. You can contact the COVID Resource Call Center if you plan to come to campus to be sure you are following the correct procedures.

  6. What happens if I receive a Red Pass from the PennOpen Pass system?

    PennOpen Pass is a daily symptom tracker designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within the Penn community. For online students that do not need to come to campus, there are no consequences for receiving a Red Pass through the PennOpen Pass daily tracking program.

  7. Which expectations should I adhere to as a staff member at Penn or Penn Medicine that is enrolled in an online program?

    If you are also a staff member at Penn or employed by Penn Medicine, you should adhere to the staff policies of your school, center, or office location.

  8. Who can I contact with additional questions?

    For additional questions about COVID-19 guidelines for students in online degree programs, contact the COVID Resource Call Center:
    Phone: 215-573-7096
    Email: covidresource@upenn.edu 
    Website: https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/questions

Travel

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

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

  2. 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.