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Following December’s surge in cases, Penn will begin the spring semester with slew of COVID-19 mitigation measures. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn will begin the spring semester with several COVID-19 mitigation measures — including two weeks of virtual learning and a new requirement to double-mask or use a KN95 or N95 mask — following December’s surge in cases.

Arrival & Move-in

Undergraduate students living in on-campus housing are now set to move in starting Jan. 15, which has been pushed back from Jan. 8. While spring semester classes will still begin on Jan. 12, they will now be held remotely and transition to an in-person format on Jan. 24. Nursing clinical courses are an exception, and they may be held in person prior to Jan. 24.

In an email sent to the Penn community on Jan. 7, Penn President Amy Gutmann, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Executive Vice President for the Health System J. Larry Jameson outlined steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus ahead of move-in.

All students need to be tested for COVID-19 48 hours before arriving on campus. In a change from an earlier statement by Penn administration, while a PCR test is preferred, a rapid test will also be accepted.

Negative test results do not need to be reported. Students who receive a positive rapid test must report their result on PennOpen Pass. Positive PCR test results must be reported both through email and on PennOpen Pass, according to Penn administrators.

In addition to a pre-arrival test, all students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students must receive a gateway test upon campus arrival. University community members can schedule their gateway test through Penn Cares. Those with positive gateway test results must comply with isolation and University contact tracing efforts.

Health & Safety Policies

Beginning Jan. 10, Penn administrators also wrote in the email that all community members are required to double-mask — described as “layering a cloth mask on top of a disposable mask" — or wear a KN95 or N95 mask when inside campus buildings.

Penn community members must continue daily usage of PennOpen Pass to report symptoms and exposures to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Some schools and centers will require a green PennOpen Pass for entry, according to a campus Public Health Guidance.

In a Dec. 23 email, Penn administrators announced a suspension of indoor social events for the beginning of the spring semester, continuing a protocol put in place at the end of the fall semester.

Four campus vaccine booster clinics will be held on Jan. 14, 17, 18, and 19 in Pottruck Health and Fitness Center’s Gimbel Gymnasium, following the University's requirement for eligible members of the University community to receive their COVID-19 booster vaccine by Jan. 31.

Campus Facilities

Penn Dining will adopt a grab-and-go system until further notice, according to an announcement on Dec. 23.

Director of Business Services Pam Lampitt said that this transition — which she said is more accurately described as “takeout dining” — will not be exactly the same as grab-and-go dining in spring 2021. Students are required to bring their own Green2Go container, or will be provided one, and will be able to walk around to various stations in the dining halls to customize their meal.

Penn’s library system will adopt slightly different hours and aims to implement the new double-masking mandate. In addition, Monica Fonorow, communications coordinator, said that Penn Libraries plans to follow the University's COVID-19 guidelines. 

Penn’s recreational facilities — including Pottruck — will extend winter break hours until Jan. 24, when in-person classes are scheduled to begin, and limit programming including fitness classes, sports instruction, and intramurals for the start of the spring semester. As for the University’s updated mask policy, its implementation in Pottruck remains under review.

“We are hoping to land somewhere in the middle,” Campus Recreation Associate Director for Facility Operations Colin Wells told The Daily Pennsylvanian in response to the new masking mandate, adding that double masking would increase the difficulty for those exercising. Additional guidance surrounding a double-masking mandate in Pottruck should be provided later this week, according to Wells.

“We have not seen spread in the facility thus far, and we anticipate that our regulations and policies regarding COVID-19 will continue to offer a safe environment for users,” Wells said.