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Penn administers the lower nostril, less-invasive nasal COVID-19 test. Credit: Jonah Charlton

Penn will offer all students living in West Philadelphia weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing for the remainder of the fall semester in an effort to continue to identify and isolate cases near the University.

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé sent an email on Friday to all students living near Penn's campus announcing that they are eligible to receive weekly COVID-19 testing at Houston Hall throughout the semester. Although this testing is not mandatory, Dubé encouraged all off-campus students, especially those with three or more roommates, to sign up for weekly testing. The announcement comes a week after Penn sent an email announcing their intent to continue regularly testing students for COVID-19 through the rest of the semester, along with another email detailing specific virus mitigation strategies for students in Greek Life and communal housing.

The Friday announcement also comes after hundreds of students petitioned the Penn to continue to provide widespread testing for all students for the entirety of the fall semester.

In the email, Dubé asked students to enroll in the weekly testing program and then to schedule a weekly testing time slot. He also wrote that students should remember to continue to follow best hygiene practices, including wearing a mask at all times outside the home, washing hands regularly, as well as participating in Penn's daily symptom check plan, PennOpen Pass.

Gateway testing — the testing of asymptomatic individuals arriving in Philadelphia — was originally set to end on Sept. 12. But Penn announced on Sept. 11 they would continue testing students for the remainder of the fall semester through a "data-driven" approach, although students were not given the specifics of the plan. 

The University reported 76 positive cases for the week ending in Sept. 12 — the highest weekly case count so far this semester. Penn's weekly positivity rate jumped from 0.66% to 2.51%, nearly quadrupling.

Penn has reported 355 cases among domestic and international Penn undergraduate, graduate, and professional students since March. Students have been tested by Student Health Service, Penn Medicine, or elsewhere and self-reported their results to SHS.

Dubé reminded students in the email that even if they are showing no symptoms, weekly monitoring of COVID-19 status — both though the weekly testing plan as well as PennOpen Pass — helps the University to identify and isolate positive cases. 

"We’re in this together – and I appreciate your partnership," Dubé wrote.