At least 42 Penn students have tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to Philadelphia within the past two weeks.
Penn has administered 7,140 COVID-19 tests in Houston Hall's Hall of Flags since beginning to test students returning to the Philadelphia area on Aug. 1, according to the Wellness Services COVID-19 dashboard. Only .59% of students tested have received a positive result, and 34 of the positive tests have been administered within the past week.
The Radian apartment complex sent an email to all tenants on Friday afternoon, announcing that a resident had tested positive for COVID-19 and that all common areas had been sanitized as an extra precaution. Campus Apartments, The Simon at Founders Row, and University City Apartments also sent similar emails about a positive resident on Friday afternoon to the properties' respective tenants.
The Radian, Campus Apartments, The Simon, and University City Apartments all wrote in the email to their respective tenants that the residents who tested positive have been self-quarantining and following recommended medical procedures.
Penn's new positive cases come just weeks after the University announced it is no longer inviting students back to campus for the fall semester and encouraged students not to return to Philadelphia. Despite this, many students – mainly those with off-campus leases, or those approved to live on campus – have been returning to campus in the days leading up to the start of classes.
On Saturday, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health released a new statement recommending that students refrain from "all social gatherings" with people outside their household. Previously, the department advised students to "socialize in ways that are relatively safe," but decided to make guidelines more strict as cases started to increase around campuses in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Campus Apartments Director of Operations Jason Cohen also stressed in the email that Campus Apartments tenants should not host events on house premises.
"Residents who continue to host parties and gatherings with more than 10 people are putting themselves and others at great risk of contracting this pandemic and they are violating their Lease Agreement and the Rules and Regulations," Cohen wrote.
In the past week, students have reported seeing more parties around campus and been sharing their concerns about further community spread on social media.
The Simon sent another email on Monday, reminding its tenants that "gatherings should not exceed the number of residents currently signed onto your lease agreement" and that any such gatherings will be addressed by the University of Pennsylvania Police Department.
Penn students can schedule a testing appointment on the Wellness Services COVID-19 page. Undergraduate students are expected to schedule two tests, at least seven days apart, upon arrival in Philadelphia as part of the gateway testing program.
Beginning Sept. 14, COVID-19 testing will only be available for symptomatic members of the Penn community and asymptomatic individuals identified in a higher risk category. However a petition demanding Penn extend widespread student testing through the end of the fall semester has garnered 569 signatures in less than 36 hours.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that there have been over 26,000 COVID-19 cases on more than 1,500 college campuses since the pandemic began in early March. Penn ranked 34th on the list with 192 cases as of Aug. 26, the highest in the Ivy League.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham reported 972 cases — the most of any college on the list — between its undergraduate and medical school students, according to The Times.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked second on the New York Times' list with 835 cases. UNC asked all undergraduate students to move out of on-campus housing and shifted all courses online on Aug. 17, just days after students had returned to campus.
The University of Central Florida, the largest university in the United States in terms of undergraduate student population, ranked just behind UNC with 727 cases. UCF has not shifted classes to solely online platforms and has welcomed all students back to campus.
On Sunday, Temple University suspended all in-person classes for two weeks after a spike in COVID-19 cases. Temple currently leads the state of Pennsylvania colleges in positive tests.
Similarly, the University of Notre Dame closed its campus for two weeks following a spike in cases but announced on Friday it will reopen its campus and resume in-person instruction on Sept. 7. In a video address, Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins said the campus’ positivity rate is 10.8%, but it has been steadily declining over the two week shutdown period.
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