Professors will be able to choose whether to require students to wear masks in their classrooms this fall, marking the end of Penn's universal mask mandate in classrooms.
The masking update was announced among a number of COVID-19 policy updates in a University-wide email. In addition, the University will end the use of PennOpen Pass, its web-based daily COVID-19 symptom checker and exposure reporting system for community members, on Aug. 8 — meaning that a green PennOpen Pass will no longer be required to access campus buildings.
Masking will remain optional on campus but is recommended while indoors for individuals with underlying medical conditions and required in health care spaces, wrote Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and Executive Vice President for the Health System J. Larry Jameson in the email. The University administrators cited continued meetings with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health as guidance for the changes.
Individuals arriving on Penn's campus for the upcoming fall semester are encouraged to self-test at home before they arrive, the administrators wrote. However, the University has lifted its mandatory testing mandate.
In May, Houston Hall and the Du Bois COVID-19 testing sites, Penn’s main testing centers on campus, permanently closed after two years of operation, marking a significant step by the University as the pandemic transitions from a crisis stage. PennCares testing will be provided at 3734 Spruce Street and will now offer at-home antigen tests.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19 while on campus, they must isolate in place for five days and then wear a mask for five days following isolation, during which they should "eat alone, maintain social distancing, and avoid in-person meetings when able" according to Penn public health guidance.
The University has stopped updating its COVID-19 dashboard, citing its decreased efficacy at monitoring virus trends on campus. From Dec. 19, 2021, to May 26, 2022 – when the dashboard was discontinued – 8,418 individuals tested positive out of 37,310 individuals who were tested.
"As the semester progresses, we will continue to consult across our community, remain prepared for any future circumstances, and follow guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the administrators wrote.