Am I required to have screening testing if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?
We are requiring continued screening testing for University members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and meet the testing criteria. While vaccines protect individuals from developing serious illness, it remains unknown whether vaccination will prevent them from transmitting the virus should they be exposed. Please continue to use PennOpen Pass, which remains an important tool in protecting the entire community. In the coming days and weeks, please pause, read, and respond to survey questions carefully.
How will I know when I can receive the vaccine?
The Penn Cares COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic will open on Wednesday, April 14 in the Gimbel Gymn at the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, 3701 Walnut Street. The vaccine wil be administered to students starting April 19, as this is the date when Phase 2 populations will be eligible to be vaccinated according to the phased approach outlined by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH).
I received the vaccine somewhere outside of Penn. Where should I upload my vaccine record?
Immunization records should be uploaded on the Student Health Service portal. Instructions on how to upload, as well as a link to the portal, can be found here: https://shs.wellness.upenn.edu/immreq/uploading-immunization-records/.
Will all Penn community members be eligible for the vaccine?
In the City of Philadelphia, vaccines are being prioritized based on two principles: occupational exposure and transmission risk, and underlying mortality and morbidity risk. Penn will help coordinate access based on occupational risk and age only. To maintain medical health confidentiality, Penn is not considering morbidity risk in providing access to the vaccine. If you have a co-morbidity that you believe elevates your eligibility for the vacine, please consult with your primary care physician.
Students are exempt from meeting the Philadelphia residency requirement.
Philadelphia residence does not guarantee that you will be vaccinated at a certain time, so if you do fall within the vaccine eligibility criteria we encourage you to also consider other avenues for getting vaccinated.
Penn community members should explore all of their options for available vaccine through the appropriate county and/or state government websites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Will the vaccine be mandatory for Penn faculty, staff, postdocs, and students?
Faculty, staff, postdocs, and students are not required to get vaccinated.
How many doses will I need to get?
The vaccines that are currently available and approved 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.
How long will the vaccine appointment take?
The appointment will take about 25-30 minutes, which includes an observation period for 15 minutes after the vaccination. After that time, you are free to go.
What do I need to bring with me to my vaccine appointment?
You will need your Penn Card, Green PennOpen Pass, and a face mask.
If you have mobility issues or require language assistance, you can bring a companion to the appointment to support your needs. However, the companion is not permitted to be vaccinated.
If I can't find my PennCard or don't have a Penn ID yet because I am a new employee, can I still get vaccinated?
Yes, please bring another form of photo ID. It is helpful if you know your Penn ID number.
I know there are a couple of available vaccines. Can I choose which one I want to get?
Vaccine availability is based on supply and you will receive the vaccine that is available during the day of your appointment.
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.
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.
What was the quiet period?
The quiet period was January 6 to February 1, 2021. This was a time meant to minimize the risk of virus spread from the introduction of many new people on campus. The University asked everyone on campus - students, faculty, postdocs, and staff - to limit face-to-face gatherings. The University prohibited organized activities. Doing so in this first month helped to preserve the potential for activities to gradually become more normal over the course of the spring semester.
What is the guidance for those days during the spring semester when no classes are held?
As you plan your Rest and Recharge days this spring semester, remember your decisions impact the lives and health of your pod, classmates, colleagues, and our West Philadelphia neighbors. Students are not to travel. If you do travel, you are subject to the Compact Review Panel and the 10-day travel quarantine policy. Penn will not provide COVID-19 testing documentation for travel this semester.
Screening tests are a public health tool used to reduce the spread of the virus. Saliva-based screening identifies infection quickly and allows contact tracing and isolation to be initiated before the virus spreads further. Regular saliva screening, as required by the University, is as sensitive as nasal PCR tests. Penn Cares testing is not a tool used for personal and/or travel-testing related documentation.
What is gateway, or day of arrival, testing?
As students arrived on campus for the 2020-2021 spring semester, whether living on or off capmpus, students were required to receive COVID-19 gateway/day-of-arrival testing. Gateway testing set a baseline positivity rate for the student community. Gateway testing had to be completed by January 18, 2021.
What is screening testing?
Screening is intended to identify COVID-19 positivity even if there are no symptoms or known exposure. Screening testing is a critical part of our overall public health strategy to monitor the positivity rates of COVID-19 in our University community. At Penn, we will administer the saliva based PCR test.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How are false positive results managed?
The testing program is by design a mass screening program to protect the University community by keeping the infection rate low when combined with masking, physical distancing, and hand washing. The mass screening of an asymptomatic population means rare false positive results for an individual may occur but are balanced by the need to detect true positives to keep the infection numbers down for the good of the overall community. A great deal of effort goes into handling the samples with care and attention to detail through all stages of collection, transport, and testing to minimize false positives. Since a false positive cannot be distinguished from a true positive, all positives are treated the same. Except under certain rare circumstances, repeat or confirmatory testing is not indicated.
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.
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.
Does the testing method used for Penn Cares detect currently known circulating variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?
Yes, the testing method used for Penn Cares saliva-based testing is predicted to detect the B.1.1.7 (UK), B.1.351 (South African), and P.1 (Brazil) variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, the assay does not differentiate between these variants. If other notable variants are identified in the future, their impact on the testing method will also be assessed.
What are the guidelines for scheduling a screening test?
Screening testing is by appointment only; the nature of this test does not allow us to accommodate walk-ins. Students, faculty, postdocs and staff who meet the screening testing criteria are able to confirm a day, time, and testing site by visiting our new web-based scheduling application, where you are also asked to give your consent for the new saliva-based test. Appointments are booked at 15-minute intervals. Appointments must be scheduled and/or modified no later than 24 hours prior to the testing time; this allows for the pre-testing processes to be accomplished overnight so your check-in and registration are seamless.
When should students schedule their testing?
Students who live on campus are required to be tested on their move-in day – this is called their gateway /day-of-arrival test. Upon arrival, on-campus students are directed to the High Rise Field Tent or Annenberg Center for a walk-in test – no appointment is needed. Those moving in on
Sunday or after hours are tested the next morning. Upon completion of the gateway/day-of-arrival test, students should schedule their second test (and first screening test), which is to be a minimum of three days, but no more than seven days, after their gateway test.
Students who live off campus are instructed to test when they move in. This is called their gateway/day-of-arrival test. Those moving in on Sunday or after hours are tested the next morning. Upon arrival, on-campus students are directed to the High Rise Field Tent or Annenberg Center for a walk-in test – no appointment is needed. Upon completion of the gateway/day-of-arrival test, students should schedule their second test (and first screening test), which is to be a minimum of three days, but no more than seven days, after their gateway test. Off-campus students are required to complete their gateway/day-of-arrival test by January 18, 2021. If they do not complete their first test by this date, they will be deemed as noncompliant and follow the associated Red Pass non-compliant process.
Undergraduates living on or off campus in Philadelphia are required to undergo twice-weekly screening tests throughout the semester, on the following pre-assigned day pairs:
- Undergraduate student year 1: Monday and Thursday
- Undergraduate student year 2: Monday and Thursday
- Undergraduate student year 3: Tuesday and Friday
- Undergraduate student year 4: Wednesday and Saturday
- NCAA student athlete: Twice per week, may pick any two-day pair
Pre-assigned testing days for undergraduates ensure that the high volume of tests can be analyzed by the labs in a timely way. The required interval between paired days maintains the sensitivity of the testing protocol.
Graduate students who come to campus each week are required to receive screening tests once per week. Graduate students who live in College Houses or elsewhere on campus are required to undergo twice-weekly screening tests, on the two-day pairs of their choosing.
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.
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,
- verification of Green Penn OpenPass at the entrance
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.
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.
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.
Students should reach out to Student Health Services (SHS) if they develop symptoms or if symptoms worsen. If Campus Health and SHS are aware of your exposure, they will reach out frequently throughout your quarantine to check in on your health and offer support.
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.
How long do I need to quarantine if I have exposure?
Along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Philadelphia Department of Public Health public health guidance, and based on our experience, the quarantine length is a minimum of 10 days.
We require continued screening testing for University members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and meet the testing criteria. While vaccines protect individuals from developing serious illness, it remains unknown whether vaccination will prevent them from transmitting the virus should they be exposed. Please continue to use PennOpen Pass, which remains an important tool in protecting the entire community.
The quarantine guidance for vaccinated individuals is as folllows:
People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after being exposed to a confirmed, non-household case of COVID-19 if they meet all of the following criteria:
- They are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine),
- They are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series, and
- They do not present with symptoms of COVID-19 and have a green PennOpen Pass
People who are fully vaccinated and who experience a household exposure to COVID-19, which is known to be the highest level of exposure risk, should:
- Quarantine for 7 days from time of positive test of their household contact,
- Undergo testing on or around Day 7; if negative, they may return to campus, and
- Continue to utilize PennOpen Pass after the quarantine period to report symptoms or future exposures.
People will be required to provide vaccination information.
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.
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 requirements and follow the Campus Compact, regardless of whether they live on campus or off campus.
I have previously tested positive; do I still need to be tested and/or quarantine/isolate?
It depends. 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 enroll in the University’s screening program and adhere to quarantine and isolation guidance provided to you based on exposures or future positive tests
What support will be available for me during my quarantine, whether I live on campus or off campus?
Penn resources (Student Health 215-746-3535 and CAPS 215-898-7021) are open and reachable for any student in need during their required quarantine.
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 care through Student Health Service
- Mental health services through CAPS
- 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.
What happens to my meals if I am on the dining plan?
During COVID-19 it is important that students on a dining plan understand how to access their meals when they are sick, in quarantine or isolation or have a Red PennOpen Pass due to noncompliance. Only students with a Green PennOpen Pass are allowed to enter dining facilities. Students with a Red PennOpen Pass can follow instructions on the Penn Dining site.
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 to Sansom Place West for the duration of the isolation period. Sansom Place West is an apartment-style high rise on campus that formerly housed graduate students. All students are provided with meals upon arrival and are then assigned to their own bedroom that includes a bathroom and, in many spaces, a kitchen.
In each room, students will find the following: linens, paper plates, plastic cups, 2 rolls of toilet paper, cleaning packs to sanitize the room while residing there, and trash cans with spare liners.
Sansom Place West has an Information Center that is staffed 24/7 with Allied Guards. The laundry room is located in the basement of the building. Like our other buildings, the laundry facilities are free for residents of the building.
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.
Why won’t the University provide me travel documentation?
The Penn Cares testing program screens members of the University community who fit defined criteria and display no symptoms for the presence of COVID-19. The program is a public-health intervention, a data-driven way for the University to reduce the risk of spread among those who are regularly on campus. It requires consistency across the campus population and is not provided as an on-demand personal service. University testing, both screening and that provided for symptomatic/close contacts, may not meet diverse and changing travel requirements of commercial airlines and domestic or international governments. Commercial entities which offer testing are equipped and intended to help individuals meet travel-documentation requirements.
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. Although this guidance is fluid and changes frequently, the University requires students to complete a minimum 10-day precautionary travel quarantine. One cannot test out of quarantine.
People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer need to quarantine after returning from out of state travel if they meet all of the following criteria:
They are fully vaccinated (i.e.≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single dose vaccine),
- They are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series, and
- They do not present with symptoms of COVID-19 and have a green PennOpen Pass
People must be willing to provide vaccination information if asked.
What are the University’s travel guidelines and procedures?
Penn Global provides COVID-19 travel guidelines and procedures for both domestic and international travel. The Division of Human Resources provides travel guidance for faculty and staff on pages 16-17 of the Return to Campus Guide. Students must abide by the travel section of the Student Campus Compact.