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Penn community members getting tested for COVID-19 at the DuBois/Rodin Field testing site on Jan. 19. Credit: Kylie Cooper

The University issued fewer than 1,000 red PennOpen Passes to undergraduate students Tuesday morning due to noncompliance with the biweekly COVID-19 screening test policy, a decrease from the more than 9,000 issued to undergraduate and graduate students two weeks ago.

A total of 873 undergraduate students received red PennOpen Passes for noncompliance, barring them from classes and many campus buildings. The University requires that all vaccinated students receive at least one COVID-19 test every two weeks, and if they fail to do so, they receive a red PennOpen Pass until they test negative. 

Last week, over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students were at risk of receiving red PennOpen Passes, but many received tests ahead of this testing period's deadline, Oct. 30, in order to avoid further ramifications.

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said it was "reassuring" that the number of undergraduates who remained noncompliant was so low following the swell in red PennOpen Passes two weeks ago, but he added that students need to remember to prepare to test for the upcoming testing cycle as well.

Penn students have until Nov. 13 to test for COVID-19 ahead of the next noncompliance red PennOpen Pass issuance date, which will occur in two weeks on Nov. 16. 

"The 9,000 students who received red passes two weeks ago really was a wakeup call for all Penn community members, so it is truly comforting to see this action taken," Dubé said. "Now we just really need to make sure we are looking ahead to the next testing cycle."

Dubé emphasized that while students are allowed to walk in to the testing center without an appointment, the University strongly recommends that students make appointments ahead of time. When fewer students schedule tests, it is more likely that results will be delayed, he added.

As the number of noncompliance red PennOpen Passes declined, the University's COVID-19 positivity rate remained low, as it has throughout the fall semester. Since Aug. 29, the Penn community has posted a 0.46% positivity rate. 

Between Oct. 24 and Oct. 30, 43 Penn community members tested positive for COVID-19 out of a total of 14,046 community members who received tests. 

Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter said the University continued to see no cases due to classroom, laboratory, or workplace transmission this week.

Five of the 43 cases this week were linked to the sharing of food and drink at an off-campus, indoor lunch, Halbritter said. The cluster of cases is contained, and the students are all being monitored, she added.

"This small cluster of cases serves as a great time to remind students that eating continues to be an area of concern when it comes to transmission," Halbritter said.

Halbritter and Dubé also said that students should remain mindful of best health practices — such as washing hands, mask wearing, and getting sufficient sleep — as the weather in Philadelphia gets colder.

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