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While Penn's spring semester plans haven't changed, the University urged the Penn community to adhere to Philadelphia's new COVID-19 guidelines.

Credit: Max Mester

Despite the city of Philadelphia's latest round of restrictive guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in response to a spike in cases, Penn has not made any changes to its current plans to reopen in the spring.

In an email sent to the Penn community Wednesday morning, Provost Wendell Pritchett and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli urged students, faculty, and staff to adhere to the city guidelines, which were announced on Monday and include the closure of indoor dining, museums, libraries, and gyms, and restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings. 

The email comes as both the University and the city continue to see large surges in COVID-19 cases — a trend observed across the United States. Yet the city's rush to close parts of daily life in response to the rise in cases has not motivated the University to reconsider its plan to open on-campus housing in the spring. Rather, the email focused on following the city guidelines and practicing mask-wearing and social distancing.

"It is critical that every member of the Penn community in Philadelphia follow these guidelines, especially students living on or around the Penn campus," Pritchett and Carnaroli wrote. "We are all in this together, and we must take collective responsibility for lowering the infection rate in the coming weeks and months, above all during the imminent holiday season."

University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy has not responded to a request for comment regarding Penn's rationale for moving forward with its reopening plan despite this new wave of cases.

The city guidelines will not affect Penn research or campus testing operations, and while designated faculty and staff must continue to work on campus, Pritchett and Carnaroli wrote that most employees should continue to work from home. 

For students planning to travel for Thanksgiving break, the email reinforces guidelines announced last week by Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé, which recommend students avoid peak holiday travel times, wear masks at all times both indoors and outdoors for 14 days upon returning home, and limit social interactions upon their arrival to campus, if they have to return. Campus housing will be open throughout the duration of the break, and the Houston Hall COVID-19 testing center will close Nov. 25 and reopen on Nov. 30, Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Wednesday's email also announced the newest guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which mandates a negative COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before returning to Pennsylvania.

Pritchett and Carnaroli wrote that the University is continuing to monitor the pandemic in conjunction with city- and region-wide public health agencies.

"We are enormously proud of the shared sense of purpose that we are seeing from every member of our community," the email reads. "Penn has thrived for hundreds of years, and we are confident that there are better days ahead in 2021."