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08-27-21-move-in-covid-masks-cart-locust-walk-tampons-samantha-turner
Penn's positivity rate currently sits at 0.86%. Credit: Samantha Turner

Penn's COVID-19 case count and positivity rate among students, staff, and faculty has remained stable over the past two weeks following a mid-August rise in positivity rates when many students moved onto campus.

A total of 82 students tested positive from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4, slightly fewer than the 85 positive student tests from the week prior. The positivity rate from the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 — during which 9,584 individuals got tested — is currently sitting at 0.86%, a slight decrease from last week’s positivity rate of 0.88%. 

During the week of Aug. 15 to Aug. 21, however, the total positivity rate was at 2.11%, with 100 positive cases among the 4,742 people who were tested. The drop in the positivity rate mirrors a trend across Philadelphia, which had a drop from a 3.8% positivity rate in the last week to 2.7% in the most recent week. 

The number of students in isolation has also remained steady, with 139 students in isolation during the week from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4. There were 143 students in isolation the week prior, which was a notable rise from 82 students in isolation the week from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21.

Students who receive a positive COVID-19 test must isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status, while vaccinated students who have a COVID-19 exposure must test on the fifth day after the exposure or at the onset of symptoms, and then must work with a contact tracer to determine whether quarantining is necessary. Unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID-19 are required to get tested and must also quarantine for seven to 10 days.

According to the Penn COVID-19 website, new positive COVID-19 cases can be linked to travel, unmasked social events and family gatherings, and sharing food and drink in close proximity with others. Given that 80% of cases were symptomatic, the website also encourages the use of PennOpen Pass to check and track symptoms daily. 

Other mitigation strategies, including vaccination, masking, testing, and contact tracing, “help prevent further exposure and spread in our community,” the website says. 

Universities across the country, notably Duke University and La Salle, have implemented additional COVID-19 restrictions after experiencing a rise in positive cases over the past two weeks. Both schools have suspended indoor dining, and La Salle will be delivering all instruction remotely for the upcoming week.

Both Duke and La Salle have a higher vaccination rate among their students than Penn, with 98% and 84.7% vaccinated, respectively, compared to Penn’s 80% of students and 84% of faculty and staff who have reported being fully vaccinated as of Aug. 5. Vaccination rates at Penn are expected to increase to 90% by the end of September, according to an email from administration sent to undergraduates on Aug. 5.

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