On March 11, 2020, former Penn President Amy Gutmann and former Provost Wendell Pritchett instructed students who were off campus for spring break not to return as the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to turn the world upside down. Over the past two years, the Penn community has witnessed milestones such as returning to in-person instruction, being able to cheer Penn athletes on at the Palestra, and sharing a meal with friends at the dining halls once again. Through all the ups and downs, the Penn community has remained resilient and is now seeing a gradual transition to post-pandemic life. To mark the two-year anniversary after students were sent home in March 2020, The Daily Pennsylvanian takes a look back on the key moments that shaped the COVID-19 landscape at Penn.

Credit: Chase Sutton

In mid-March 2020, Penn students began moving out of the residential halls due to concerns of the newly emerging COVID-19 pandemic. 

Credit: Max Mester

For the rest of the spring 2020 and fall 2020 semesters, students and professors saw the transition to online school using Zoom and Canvas as the main mediums of course instruction.

Credit: Max Mester

Students were able to return to campus in spring 2021, after a declining trend of COVID-19 cases. However, online instruction remained as the race for a vaccine continued.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn introduced the PCR saliva test — given at the DuBois and Houston Hall testing sites — and PennOpen Pass as tools to track and document COVID-19 cases in the community.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Dining saw drastic reforms, and dining halls relied on the “grab-and-go” method to distribute food for students on the dining plan.

Credit: Chase Sutton

With the introduction of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Penn instated a vaccine mandate beginning April 2021, offering vaccine clinics for students and faculty.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

As cases declined in the summer of 2021, the incoming Class of 2025 was able to experience Penn traditions on campus as in-person instruction resumed for the first time since March 2020.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Former President Amy Gutmann gave a convocation speech to the Class of 2025, highlighting the perseverance of the Penn community during the pandemic that made the event possible.

Credit: Savanna Cohen

Fall 2021 saw the reintroduction of in-person classes, with mask mandates and biweekly testing protocols in place.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The decline in COVID-19 cases allowed sports its glorious return at Franklin Field for the first time since 2019.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

The Omicron variant presented a roadblock, resulting in a virtual end to the 2021 fall semester. To combat against the new rise in cases, Penn instated a booster mandate for the Penn community in January 2022.

Credit: Diego Cárdenas

On March 15, 2022, Interim President Wendell Pritchett announced that the University will be moving to a mask-optional policy in indoor spaces, signaling hope for post-pandemic life.

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