The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Student at the testing tent near Du Bois College House on Jan.19, 2021.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn’s weekly COVID-19 case count and positivity rate surged to record highs in the weeks leading up to the start of the spring semester.

A total of 1,281 Penn community members tested positive for COVID-19 between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8 — up from 591 the week before, marking the highest number of new cases in one week since the start of the fall semester.

"The increased positivity on our campus reflects the surge we have seen across the Delaware Valley. Our existing mitigation strategies will help us contain further spread. We hope that pre-arrival testing will allow students with a positive test result to isolate more comfortably at home before they arrive to campus," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

The positivity rate decreased to 13.22%, down slightly from 15.89% during the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, despite the jump in cases. Only 9,692 tests were administered during the most recent week, with fewer members of the Penn community on campus during winter break.

Nearly half of the newly recorded cases originate from the community of faculty, postdoctoral students, and staff, which had a positivity rate of 13.39% and 676 positive cases during the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8. Undergraduate students composed only 155 of the new cases but had the highest positivity rate of 18.74%.

The number of students in isolation has also sharply increased, reaching a high of 1,078 during the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 — up from 750 students from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

Penn’s testing data predicts that at least one-sixth of the Penn community will have been diagnosed with the Omicron variant over winter break. The University has announced new efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the spring semester. These new policies include requiring double-masking or the use of a KN95 or N95 mask when indoors.

In a Jan. 7 email to the Penn community, administrators reiterated that all students arriving to campus during January must receive a negative COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to arriving on campus and a gateway test by the end of the month. Any member of the Penn community who arrives on campus after Jan. 31 should complete a gateway test on the day they arrive.

Pottruck Health and Fitness Center’s Gimbel Gymnasium will host four vaccine booster clinics during the month of January — on Jan. 14, 17, 18, and 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. All eligible members of the Penn community must receive a COVID-19 booster shot by the end of January.

University administrators wrote they are still monitoring the evolving situation of COVID-19 and will continue to communicate a change in protocols should it become necessary.