Health Information and Guidance

Call Student Health with questions about COVID-19 or health-related travel questions at 215-746-3535. They have increased staff capacity in anticipation of increased call volume.

Students are strongly discouraged from using the Emergency Department except for emergency situations (e.g. difficulty breathing, chest pain).


In an effort to keep our community informed, we will be providing regular updates on lab confirmed positive or probable COVID-19 for Penn students. These include undergraduate, graduate and professional students who have been tested by Student Health Service (SHS) or Penn Medicine, and those who have been tested elsewhere and self-reported to SHS.

For more information on positive cases in your current area, go to the CDC Website on Cases and Latest Updates.

Contact Investigations and Risk Assessments are Underway

Guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health agencies, Campus Health and Student Health, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, have established protocols for evaluating students who have symptoms of COVID-19. In line with those protocols, Campus Health oversees contact investigation and notification for students.

Contact investigations include an in-depth review of activities including, but not limited to, meals and dining locations, social outings or errands, campus activities or utilization, and travel. Places, employees and patrons of those spaces, fellow travel passengers, and individual contacts all receive notices of exposure. The exposure notice includes risk level, provides instructions on next steps, and staying healthy. If you have received one of these notifications, take it seriously. If you have not been notified, then you are not currently deemed to have increased risk of exposure.


Take Preventative Measures

COVID-19 may not have personally touched you or anyone in your life – yet. Based on scientific modeling, it may soon impact people you know and love. Pennsylvania is under a “Stay at Home” order. This means you should do exactly that-stay home. People are allowed outside for exercise, but social distancing must be practiced. Social distancing means:

  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others.
  • Stay out of crowded places
  • Use cloth face coverings when you are out and about


We have a collective responsibility to mitigate the spread of this disease to protect those more vulnerable. Learn more here:


Monitor for symptoms

Avoid gatherings of any size. Stay home. Practice social distancing at all times. Wash your hands frequently and take your temperature. If you develop a fever, frequent cough, or have difficulty breathing, please limit your contacts and call Student Health or your health care provider for guidance.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are wondering whether you should self-isolate, please call Student Health (215-746-3535) for further guidance.

  1. What health recommendations do you advise?

    The state of Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, continues to observe a "stay at home" order. Your activities should be limited to getting food, getting exercise, or seeking medical care. SHS and CAPS remain open 24/7 to students; you can call anytime.

    1.    Monitor for symptoms. If you develop symptoms CALL Student Health Service (215-746-3535). Student Health Service may be in touch intermittently to check in on your wellbeing.

    2.    Continue SOCIAL DISTANCING. This means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding gathering with others (small and large), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible. Please continue to:

    • Stay home.
    • Use good hand hygiene: Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Limit the spread of germs and illness: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don?t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow. Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, cups, vapes/JUULs, etc.
  2. Should we be using masks?

    For now, the Centers for Disease Control does NOT recommend surgical masks or N95 masks for the general public. However, they do support cloth masks as a way to limit the spread of illness from asymptomatic persons.  CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission, like Philadelphia.

    Social distancing remains incredibly important to slowing the spread, and flattening the curve, of COVID 19. The entire Penn Community is encouraged to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

    We continue to appreciate that this guidance may be different from other countries.

    For more information on how to make your own cloth mask:

  3. What does self-isolation mean?

    • Stay at home and do not go to class, work, or participate in any campus activities.
    • Do not participate in social activities such as parties.
    • Do not share utensils, toothbrushes, water bottles, pillows, and avoid shaking hands, kissing, hugging, or other intimate activities. Avoid close contact.
    • Order food & groceries online.
    • If you start to feel unwell, please call ahead to your medical care provider and mention your travel history or known contact with confirmed cases. Penn students can call Student Health at 215-746-3535.
    • According to the CDC, isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.
  4. I have upcoming travel. Should I change my plans?

    All travel, even locally, is strongly discouraged at this time.

    For Penn students AND visiting scholars, if you start to feel unwell upon returning from travel, we recommend calling Student Health at (215) 746-3535.

  5. What does quarantine mean?

    According to the CDC, quarantine in general means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

  6. Are there cleaning guidelines I can follow?

    The University housekeeping staff has been actively following COVID-19 cleaning guidelines since January. Housekeeping does a full disinfectant cleaning every day. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.

    Business services is proactively sanitizing all the interiors of the Penn transit fleet daily with the recommended sanitizing solution. The exteriors of all vehicles are washed weekly and in some cases daily. At home, you can:

    • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles) using a regular household detergent and water.
    • Use disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

    For more CDC guidance on cleaning at home:

    The EPA recommends these approved cleaning products for COVID-19:

  7. What action is recommended for different levels of exposure?

    • High Risk Exposure (e.g. roommate, sexual partner): you should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms
    • Medium Risk Exposure (e.g. same place same time for an extended time; within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes): you should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms
    • Low Risk Exposure (e.g. same place same time but large venue) : you should monitor for symptoms

Last updated: August 11, 2020, 5:50pm