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10-03-2020-isolation-max-mester

In an email sent to executive board members of Greek organizations on Wednesday evening, Penn is requiring student groups to cancel all social events including parties, formals, and other spaces where alcohol, food, and dancing are present.

Credit: Max Mester

Penn is requiring student groups to cancel all social events for the remainder of the semester beginning on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Social events include parties, formals, and other spaces where alcohol, food, and dancing are present, according to an email Director of Fraternity & Sorority Leadership Community Jessica Ryan sent to Greek organizations on Wednesday evening. Ryan wrote that the decision is due to an increase in case counts, although the total positivity rate itself has decreased as of Dec. 4. 

"We reached out to some student groups as a courtesy, letting them know that indoor, unmasked social gatherings are being canceled for the remainder of the semester in response to this trend," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian on Wednesday evening. Dubé added that all students can expect a campus-wide announcement tomorrow morning with more information.

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, there were 120 total positive cases, up from 90 the previous week. The number of students in isolation rose from 156 to 215 and the positivity rate among undergraduates was 0.71%, down from 1.22% the previous week. 

"Our collective goal is to ensure that all students are able to complete their fall semester safely and with as little disruption as possible," Ryan wrote.

The announcement comes as many student groups, particularly fraternities and sororities, were scheduled to host formals. Upon receiving the email, several Greek organizations have already told their members that the events are canceled.

Student organizations were previously instructed to stop hosting activities on Dec. 10, which is the last day of classes. Ryan wrote that campus health guidance led the University to move up the deadline in preparation for finals week.

Dubé urged members of the Penn community to limit social gatherings, specifically those that are large, indoors, and unmasked on Nov. 30. Penn also sent an email to all faculty and staff on Nov. 17 recommending that departments postpone in-person December gatherings to January or beyond in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season.

"The decisions we make today can help us avoid outcomes, such as having to quarantine due to exposure, delaying or limiting travel during the break, and disrupting our end of semester academic activities," Ryan wrote. 

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