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Penn's new 10-day quarantine policy for students exposed to COVID-19 will begin Feb. 16. Credit: Max Mester

Penn is reducing its mandatory quarantine period from 14 to 10 days for students who are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, effective Feb. 16.

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé and Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter told The Daily Pennsylvanian on Tuesday that the decision to shorten the length of quarantine comes after the University observed that 92.5% of students who have been exposed to COVID-19 end up testing positive on their 10th day in quarantine or before, if they test positive at all.

"We really hope that this begins to buoy spirts a bit for people who have felt very isolated and for whom 14 days feels like a really long time," Halbritter said. "We're really putting our faith in students that this will work." 

Members of the Penn community who have received the COVID-19 vaccine also have new guidance for quarantine after exposure. If the individual is fully vaccinated, received their second dose within the last three months, and has no symptoms of COVID-19, they are no longer required to quarantine.

Halbritter explained that, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened its recommended quarantine period under specific guidelines in the fall, Penn did not follow suit because Philadelphia was experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the University did not have a proper system in place to monitor positive or exposed individuals frequently enough.

Now, Penn has such a system in place in the form of COVID Navigator — an automated, text--based system that checks in with students in quarantine or isolation, Medical Director of Student Health Service Vanessa Stoloff said. Students who receive a Red PennOpen Pass due to a positive COVID-19 result, a COVID-19 exposure, or COVID-19 symptoms are automatically contacted by the COVID Navigator program and will continue to receive messages daily throughout their time in quarantine or isolation. 

For students who are exposed and in quarantine for 10 days, they will receive their post-exposure test on day seven of quarantine. 

Halbritter said that testing any sooner than the seventh day in quarantine can often lead to a false negative. If students test negative and continue to feel no symptoms, they are instructed to resume testing on their pre-assigned day or days of the week following their 10 days of quarantine. 

For students who are currently in quarantine, Halbritter said they should inquire about their quarantine period being reduced from 14 days to 10 days when visiting Irvine Auditorium, one of Penn's seven COVID-19 testing sites, for their post-exposure test on their seventh day of quarantine.

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