Penn will once again require all community members — regardless of vaccination status — to wear a mask while indoors.
With the start of the in-person fall semester just weeks away, top University administrators announced the decision in an email to the Penn community on Thursday afternoon, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidelines for mask wearing in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates, an ever-growing list that includes Philadelphia. The only exceptions to the requirement is within dorms or suites, single-person offices, spaces where appropriate social distancing is possible, and in instructional settings after permission is granted.
The administrators wrote that in addition to mask wearing, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the "safest and most effective defense against COVID-19 and its variants." All community members are required to submit proof of vaccination ahead of the fall semester or to receive a medical or religious exemption. A total of 80% of students enrolled in on-campus programs and 84% of faculty and staff have reported being fully vaccinated. The University expects the community vaccination rate to reach 90% by September.
The email — sent by Penn President Amy Gutmann, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine J. Larry Jameson — comes just over a week after the University said it would "strongly recommend," but not require, mask wearing indoors, also per CDC guidelines.
"Our highest priorities are the safety and readiness of the Penn community, and we will all need to remain patient and flexible this semester as we respond collectively to the changing public health situation," the administrators wrote.
In spring 2021, the University required all students and faculty to be tested twice a week for COVID-19. In June, Penn announced that testing twice per week was no longer necessary for fully vaccinated individuals ahead of the fall 2021 semester. For those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, the twice-weekly testing mandate will remain in effect. The administrators also wrote that all members of the Penn community can be tested for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, as it "can help bring some added peace of mind to those with added concerns such as for vulnerable members of your household."