Penn’s undergraduate COVID-19 cases doubled for the second week in a row.
Cases increased from 113 to 239 among undergraduates between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, bringing the undergraduate positivity rate to 4.47%. The available on-campus isolation capacity dropped to 56.9%, down from 83.4% during the week of Jan. 24 to Jan. 30.
Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said there is "no evidence of an out-of-control outbreak" on campus. The University is working on tracing each case to a specific cluster but the process takes time, he added.
"With more people on campus, we expected more cases. This part of the data does not worry us. The rapid pace of the increase, however, is a little surprising and concerning," Dubé said.
The week of testing that began on Monday will be instrumental in determining whether Penn needs to implement harsher restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19, Dubé said. By Friday morning, when the University has the results of Wednesday's COVID-19 tests, they will be able to make a decision on how to proceed.
Penn will see one of two scenarios arise: a continuation of the doubling of undergraduate cases or a plateau in the number of undergraduate cases, Dubé said. During the fall semester, the University experienced a similar trend in which cases doubled over the first few weeks of the semester and then plateaued. Dubé said he hopes for a similar result this week.
Penn announced that the University is seeing “worrisome trends” in the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus in a message to the Penn community on Friday. Provost Wendell Pritchett, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Dubé warned that campus-wide self-quarantine measures may be imposed this week if trends do not reverse.
The University may move to Alert Level Three: Safer at Home on the University's four-level alert system, which would prohibit public gatherings and require students to quarantine in their place of residence, according to the announcement. Alert Level Three may be triggered by evidence of significant community spread or significant increases in positive cases on campus, according to Penn's COVID-19 website.
Penn is currently at Alert Level Two: Heightened Awareness due to conditions that suggest increased exposure of students or COVID-19 cases.
There are currently 388 students with COVID-19 in isolation and 644 students in quarantine who were exposed to COVID-19 but remain healthy. The number of students in isolation and quarantine increased sharply from last week, jumping from 611 students in quarantine or isolation to 1,032 students over the last week.
Penn administered 12,714 total COVID-19 tests between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, with a total positive headcount of 261 cases and an overall positivity rate of 2.22%.
The University administered 397 tests for symptomatic individuals and individuals who had close contact with someone with COVID-19 between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6. These tests accounted for 104 positive tests and a 26.20% positivity rate.
Undergraduates living on and off campus are required to schedule saliva-based screening tests twice a week on pre-assigned days. Graduate students and faculty living on campus must schedule screening testing twice a week on days of their choice, and off-campus graduate students and faculty who visit campus must be tested once a week.
There are currently seven operational testing facilities open to the Penn community during the spring semester.