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151 community members tested positive last week, with undergraduates accounting for over 60% of the cases. Credit: Roger Ge

Penn’s COVID-19 case count and positivity rate increased last week, continuing a three-week upward trend.

A total of 151 community members tested positive for COVID-19 during the week from March 20 to March 26 — up 19 from the week before. Undergraduates comprised over 60% of the new cases, a sharp increase from previous weeks.

The campus-wide positivity rate increased to 3.95%, up from 2.39% last week, continuing a three-week increasing trend. Undergraduate students saw a positivity rate of 6.87% this week — the largest positivity rate for this population since the week from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. The communities of graduate students and faculty, postdoctoral students, and staff have continued to have a positivity rate below three percent for the ninth week.

Administrators wrote that the COVID-19 Dashboard reflects that “transmission remains primarily associated with social gatherings,” such as formals and galas.

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian on March 17 that community members need to “unlearn bad habits” when it comes to understanding an increase in case count and positivity rate.

The University recently moved to exempt fully vaccinated community members — who also received their booster shots — from COVID-19 testing. Dubé added that this move means that the individuals most protected against the virus no longer have to participate in testing, creating the environment for an increased positivity rate.

“Being concerned should be replaced with being aware,” Dubé said. “We're changing the story because it's no longer just about cases, but it's about how sick people are and who needs to protect themselves."

The increase in the campus-wide positivity rate comes as community members get tested less, with the number of tests last week declining to 3,827 from 5,532 the previous week. During the fall semester, community members took over 10,000 tests through Penn Cares each week for thirteen out of the sixteen weeks between Aug. 29 and Dec. 18.

Community members who have either not yet uploaded their COVID-19 booster vaccine information or are not yet booster-eligible are still required to undergo screening testing twice each week. Students must upload their booster information into their Student Health Portal if they have not done so already.