Penn will conduct all classes online for the first two weeks of the spring semester and delay on-campus housing move-in by one week.
Penn President Amy Gutmann, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Executive Vice President for the Health System J. Larry Jameson announced the changes in an email to the Penn community on Thursday afternoon, adding that classes will still begin as originally scheduled on Jan. 12, albeit remotely. The administrators cited concerns about the Omicron variant and health models predicting a surge in cases in January.
On-campus housing move-in — which was previously scheduled to begin on Jan. 8 — will begin on Jan. 15, and in-person classes will resume on Jan. 24. Clinical courses may be held in-person prior to Jan. 24, dependent upon guidance from individual programs.
The administrators also announced that the University would continue its ban on indoor social gatherings, which it previously instituted through the end of the fall semester. Mask wearing indoors will continue to be mandated, and students will be required to receive a negative PCR COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to returning to campus, as well as a gateway test upon arrival.
Over the course of the last week, a number of Ivy League institutions have taken similar measures — Columbia University announced on Wednesday that it would move classes online for the first two weeks of its spring semester, and Harvard University announced it would switch to remote operations for the first three weeks of January, and will keep most students away from campus during this time. Yale University announced it would delay the start of classes by one week, and keep all classes online until Feb. 4.
Colleges in the Philadelphia area are also taking steps in the light of the Omicron variant. Temple University will conduct online-only classes through Jan. 21, while Drexel University will hold their first week of the spring semester remotely.
Cases on campus — and throughout the United States — had already been increasing prior to the end of the fall semester. Between Dec. 12 and Dec. 18, a total of 241 Penn community members tested positive for COVID-19 — up from 194 the week before, and the highest number of new cases in one week for the semester. The positivity rate also increased from 1.3% to 2.26%.
Top Penn administrators wrote that they will "not hesitate to change our guidance based on input from our medical and health experts."
"We are grateful for the patience, resilience, and flexibility of every member of our community as we face unpredictable circumstances together," they wrote.