Penn's COVID-19 positivity rate decreased for the fourth straight week to a new semester low, reaching 0.31% in the week from Feb. 28 to March 6, preceding the University's two-day abbreviated spring break.
Penn canceled spring break to discourage travel, replacing it with three engagement days spread throughout the semester and two "Spring Stay" days — which took place on March 10 and 11. Despite the semester-low positivity rate, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said he is apprehensive about the effect that potential student travel in spite of COVID-19 safety protocols over the break may have on the campus positivity rate in the coming weeks.
“We fully expect the [positivity] rate will go back up, [but] I really hope that we’re wrong and that the students will prove us wrong,” Dubé said.
Dubé said that students who make the decision to travel should take precautions upon their return and respect the 10-day quarantine period, or the whole University could face the repercussions.
Students who travel out of state are required by the University to quarantine for 10 days, unless they are fully vaccinated within the past three months, are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, and have a green PennOpen Pass.
Undergraduate students accounted for a total of 12 of the University's 42 COVID-19 cases from Feb. 28 to March 6, down from 17 the previous week.
The four-week-long downward trend follows an alarming uptick in cases and positivity rate in early February, which led the University to consider implementing a campus-wide quarantine policy under Campus Alert Level 3 of the four-level COVID-19 alert system.
Currently, Penn is at Level 2: Heightened Awareness, but Dubé said the University could very well move to Level 3 if the University notices another uptick in cases.
“It would be a shame at the end of the semester — after really coasting for a few weeks — to have to move to Level 3,” Dubé said. “I’m not predicting that, but it’s just something we need to be honest about.”
Penn also released data on March 9 on the popularity of each of the University's six testing sites on its COVID-19 dashboard. The chart includes the number of people tested each hour at each testing site from the past week and was created for Penn community members who wish to avoid high-traffic times at the testing site.
“It can be a little jarring when you get to DuBois [or the Rodin Field-West testing site] and it is at full capacity, so we wanted to give people [information about the testing sites] so that they can decide when would be most comfortable for them,” Dubé said.
Based on the week from Feb. 28 to March 6, the busiest time and location is Dubois/Rodin Field-West between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., with nearly 1,000 people tested over the course of the week. Dubois/Rodin Field-West was the most popular testing site last regardless of the time of the day as well, followed by Houston Hall and Annenberg Center. The testing site-specific data will be updated throughout the semester.