In less than one month, Penn will welcome all students back to campus for the fall semester. But this fall, campus life will be very different.
The upcoming semester will be held under a hybrid model, in which most instruction will take place online, and the University will send all domestic undergraduate students a COVID-19 saliva testing kit that they must self-administer before returning to campus.
But what exactly will the fall semester look like and how will Penn administer testing throughout the semester? The Daily Pennsylvanian has answers to all of those questions and more — here is everything you need to know about Penn's fall semester plan.
What does the "hybrid" instruction model actually entail?
While Penn will continue to designate the fall semester as a hybrid of in-person and online classes, the vast majority of undergraduate fall classes will be held online with very few in-person offerings, according to an email sent to the Penn community on July 31 detailing updated fall semester plans.
For Nursing undergraduates, only clinical simulations, experiences in the hospital, and clinical settings will be held in person, as previously announced on June 29. For students in Wharton, Engineering, and the College, a minimal number of courses will be held in person, only where it is "essential."
How will Penn test students for COVID-19?
All students returning to campus will be required to take at least two COVID-19 tests, regardless of whether they are living on or off campus.
A testing kit will be mailed to all domestic undergraduates' home address between Aug. 8 and Aug. 12., which will include a COVID-19 saliva test conducted by Genetworx, a third-party testing laboratory. This test will be processed within 72 hours of the lab receiving them, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said in an interview with the DP on Aug. 3.
After arriving to campus, all students will be tested for a second time in Houston Hall's Hall of Flags, Dubé said. Unlike the first test, this second test will be an anterior nasal test conducted by the University in conjunction with Penn Medicine. It will be processed within 24 to 48 hours, Dubé said.
Dubé described the test as a "nose tickle" or "sticking your finger up your nose."
International students and students coming to Penn from states designated as hotspots by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take a third test within five to seven days from their first on-campus test.
Throughout the semester, Penn students may also be required to take part in "strategic" surveillance testing, Dubé said.
Under the surveillance testing, Penn will take a pooled sample of select groups of eight students who have spent significant time around one another, including sports teams, extracurricular groups, and College House floors.
If the pooled sample comes back negative, nothing further will happen, Dubé said. If the pooled samples come back positive, all eight students will take an anterior nasal test to determine which individual tested positive.
After students are tested, what happens next?
After being tested in Houston Hall, students will be expected to move directly to their on or off campus residence and quarantine there until they receive their result, Dubé said.
For students living on campus, meals will be delivered to their rooms. For students living off campus, meals will not be provided or delivered by University staff.
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
Students living in on-campus housing who test positive for COVID-19 will be moved into one of approximately 350 bedrooms in Sansom Place West, Dubé said, where they will quarantine for 14 days.
While in self-quarantine, Penn's contact tracing team comprised of public health experts will call students by phone for daily health check-ins.
Students living in off-campus housing who test positive for COVID-19 will be expected to isolate to their individual bedrooms and ask roommates and friends to drop off food outside their door.
What are the consequences for breaking the Student Campus Compact?
Students who violate the Student Campus Compact, a set of public health guidelines the University expects students to follow while on campus, will be brought to a Compact Review Panel.
The panel, which will likely have a team of three people — including faculty, administrators, and students — will assess complaints and determine the appropriate response for each case. Depending on the severity of the transgression, Dubé said the panel's response to violations will range from having a discussion with the student to expulsion from the University.
Penn is also in the process of forming a team of Public Health Ambassadors stationed around campus to remind the Penn community to abide by the Compact and distribute masks to those who may have forgotten one in their room.
"The Public Health Ambassadors will be the first line of defense and are there to reinforce the collective mission," Dubé said.
What is PennOpen Pass?
PennOpen Pass is a two-way, interactive texting system and online platform that students will be required to enroll in before arriving to campus.
Each day, students will receive a text with a link to an online survey that they will be required to fill out at a time of their own choosing. Depending on their responses, they will either receive a green pass granting them access to campus buildings or a red pass that will be followed by instructions to contact Penn officials.
When students are considering returning to campus, what should they know?
"I would advise students still deciding to return or not to ask themselves 'What is making you unsure?'" Dubé said.
He encouraged students to "be honest with yourself" about their motivations for returning to campus and doing what is right for them.
"Remember, coming back to campus is going to be challenging. Campus is not going to be what it was. The world is completely different now," Dubé said. "There is a great likelihood that you will be impacted by other people's decisions and you have to decide if that is a risk you are willing to take. Make an informed decision and follow your gut on what you are comfortable with."
Is there any chance Penn reverses its plan?
The short answer: yes.
"If I have learned anything with this pandemic, it is to expect the unexpected," Dubé said. "It would be silly to say [we will absolutely not] change the plan. If we didn't think we could pull this off, we would not have sent [information regarding testing] on Friday."
While Dubé said he does not believe Penn will have to depopulate campus as it did in mid-March, he said it is likely there will be further modifications and changes to the plan.
"Students who come back to campus have to understand that there will be changes and the campus they are coming back to is not the campus they are so nostalgic about," he said.
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