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Students celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Rodin College House on Sept. 19, 2021. Indoor social gatherings and events may resume now that Penn's COVID-19 positivity rate has decreased. Credit: Julia Van Lare

The campus-wide COVID-19 case count and positivity rate plunged, enabling the University to resume indoor social gatherings and event registration.

Penn’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate sharply decreased during the week of Feb. 6 to Feb. 12 to 1.81% — down from 6.72% during the previous week of Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. Among undergraduate students, the positivity rate fell from 12.89% last week to a semester low of 2.99%.

In response to the favorable trends across all University communities, particularly undergraduates, the top University officials announced in a Feb. 15 email to all undergraduate students that indoor social gatherings and event registration can now resume in full.

"We are thrilled to be able to loosen our temporary restriction on indoor social gatherings and remain hopeful that this last week's encouraging trends will continue," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Overall case count followed the encouraging trend, with a total of 165 community members testing positive during the week from Feb. 6 to Feb. 12 — down from 751 the previous week. Although undergraduate students still composed the majority of positive cases among all Penn communities with 101 positive tests, the number significantly decreased from 624 last week, which is over an 80% decline.

The number of students in isolation also decreased to a semester low of 359 — down from 532 the week before. The on-campus isolation capacity has increased to 76.3% availability — up from 42.7% during the previous week.

The administrators wrote that the restrictions on social gatherings first implemented on Jan. 12 are now officially lifted, and that indoor gatherings — assuming they follow Penn’s current Public Health Guidance — may now include food and drink. Students may also resume social event registration for events at third-party venues.

“We are enormously grateful to every member of our community for your partnership, resilience, and flexibility,” Interim President Wendell Pritchett, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Executive Vice President for the Health System J. Larry Jameson wrote in the email, adding that they will continue to monitor the COVID-19 data trends across Penn’s campus and the greater region.

On the COVID-19 Dashboard, the University wrote that they hope these encouraging trends will continue and that they expect more COVID-19 restrictions will be “slowly lifted” in the coming weeks.

"We will continue to rely on guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health," Dubé told the DP, adding that restrictions will be adjusted accordingly throughout the remainder of the semester.

The declining COVID-19 positivity rate and case count mirror trends across Philadelphia County, which has seen a 54% decrease in new reported cases in the last 14 days.

As a part of Penn's COVID-19 safety guidelines, all students are required to participate in the Penn Cares screening testing program. Fully vaccinated students are required to test once every other week, and unvaccinated community members are required to test twice each week.

Community members who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days are exempt from screening testing but are required to continue reporting symptoms and exposures through PennOpen Pass.