Faculty, Postdoc, and Staff FAQs

COVID-19 Vaccination

  1. How will I know when I can receive the vaccine?

    The Penn Cares COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is open in the Gimbel Gym at the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, 3701 Walnut Street. The vaccine is being administered to all University faculty, staff, postdocs, and students regardless of residence. 

    For details on how to schedule an appointment, visit the Getting Vaccinated website at https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/content/getting-vaccinated.

     

  2. 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 vaccine, please consult with your primary care physician.

    The Penn Cares COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is open in the Gimbel Gym at the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, 3701 Walnut Street. The vaccine is being administered to all University faculty, staff, postdocs, and students regardless of residence.

    For details on how to schedule an appointment, visit the Getting Vaccinated website at https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/content/getting-vaccinated.

    The Penn Cares COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is just one option to get vaccinated. 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. 

  3. If I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine, do I need to use paid sick time in order to attend my vaccine appointment?

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

  4. If I have received my second shot, do I still have to get a COVID-19 test every week?

    We are requiring continued screening testing for University members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and meet the testing criteria. While the COVID vaccine is critically important in our fight against COVID-19, up to 10 percent of people vaccinated could still become infected and transmit the virus. Whether you are vaccinated or not, it remains important to take precautions such as wearing masks, good hand hygiene, and following CDC physical distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease.

  5. Will the vaccine be mandatory for Penn faculty, staff, postdocs, and students?

    Faculty, staff, and postdocs are not required to get vaccinated. Students will be required to get vaccinated. Exceptions will only be provided for medical or religious reasons. 

  6. 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. 

  7. Will I have to use PennOpen Pass before going to my vaccination appointment?

    Yes. Faculty, staff, and postdocs must complete the PennOpen Pass symptom check before departing for campus each day. 

  8. What should I do if I get a Red PennOpen Pass before my scheduled vaccination appointment?

    Faculty, staff, postdocs, and students are required to have a Green PennOpen Pass the day of vaccination. 

  9. 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. 

  10. If I experience side effects from the vaccine, do I need to use paid time off for any absence while I recover?

    Yes, should there be time off needed as a result of receiving a vaccine you can submit to use paid time off or sick time. 

  11. What do I need to bring with me to my vaccine appointment?

    You will need your PennCard, 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. 

  12. 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. 

  13. 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. 

  14. 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.

  15. 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. 

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

    As members of the Penn community begin receiving vaccinations, PennOpen Pass will remain an important tool. In the coming days and weeks, please pause, read, and respond to survey questions carefully. 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. 

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

    Yes, if you have been vaccinated, you must continue to answer PennOpen Pass questions to screen for symptoms and exposures concerning COVID-19. If you experience symptoms or exposures and generate a Red Pass, you will be guided through additional screening questions informed by the latest clinical guidance and scientific evidence used by Penn Medicine clinicians to determine quarantine timeframes or other next steps for your situation. The PennOpen Pass team does consider vaccination status when guiding PennOpen Pass users about their next steps. 

  18. Now that I'm fully vaccinated, do I still have to wear a mask and follow other public health guidance?

    Yes. Penn's public health guidance remains unchanged. Masking, distancing, washing your hands, testing, and completing your daily PennOpen Pass are still required even if you are fully vaccinated. Clinically, an individual is considered fully vaccatinated two weeks after the second dose. 

    We acknowledge that this health guidance may differ from that provided at a state and federal level, but this guidance is based on evidence specific to our Penn population.  

Public Health Measures

  1. 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.

  2. Has the University's public-health guidance changed for summer?

    No. Penn's public-health guidance remains unchanged. Masking, distancing, washing your hands, testing, and completing your daily PennOpen Pass are still required even if you are fully vaccinated. Clinically, an individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose.

    We acknowledge that this health guidance may differ from that provided at a state and federal level, but this guidance is based on evidence specific to our Penn population.

    Remember that your decisions impact the lives and health of your students, colleagues, and our West Philadelphia neighbors.

  3. Now that I'm fully vaccinated, do I still have to wear a mask and follow other public health guidance?

    No. Penn's public-health guidance remains unchanged. Masking, distancing, washing your hands, testing, and completing your daily PennOpen Pass are still required even if you are fully vaccinated. Clinically, an individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose.

    We acknowledge that this health guidance may differ from that provided at a state and federal level, but this guidance is based on evidence specific to our Penn population.

Testing

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

Scheduling Testing

  1. 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 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.

  2. When should faculty, postdocs, and staff schedule their tests?

    Faculty, postdocs, and staff who meet the testing criteria must enroll and schedule their first screening test for the first week they are on campus, and then schedule a test once per week.

  3. 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.

  4. If I do not fit the testing criteria or only occasionally visit the campus, do I qualify for screening testing?

    If you are working remotely 100% of the time or outside the Philadelphia area, or if you plan to visit the campus occasionally, you do not qualify for the screening program. We encourage you to complete PennOpen Pass every day. If you have symptoms or exposure, the Red Pass will guide you through a series of questions and the result will be clinical guidance, which may include quarantine and/or testing. You will be instructed on testing and making an appointment if your situation requires.

  5. 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.

Contact Tracing

  1. What happens to close contacts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life During Quarantine and Isolation

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

    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 follows:

    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.

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

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

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

    It depends. If you have tested positive within 90 days, you do not need to participate in screening testing. 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

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

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

Travel

  1. 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.

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

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

    Travel guidance is fluid and changes frequently.

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

    For Penn-affiliated Travel:

    Faculty and Staff Travel

    • The Division of Human Resources provides travel guidance for faculty and staff on pages 16-17 of the Return to Campus Guide.

    Students