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A student receives a COVID-19 booster shot at Penn's annual vaccination clinic on April 21, 2021. Credit: Chase Sutton

Wellness at Penn recently updated their COVID-19 guidelines to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated recommendations for respiratory viruses.

In early March, the CDC announced that people who test positive for COVID-19 no longer need to isolate from others for at least five days, with the new guidelines falling in line with the guidelines for other respiratory infections such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. Wellness at Penn similarly shortened the five-day COVID-19 isolation period, recommending that those who feel sick should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone and symptoms have improved.

Wellness at Penn’s website also emphasizes the importance of preventative measures. These include vaccination, hand hygiene, staying home when you feel unwell, testing for COVID-19, RSV, and influenza, wearing a mask, and seeking support from Penn’s medical care team for treatments such as Paxlovid for COVID-19 and antivirals for the flu. 

Ashlee Halbritter, Executive Director of Public Health and Well-Being at Wellness at Penn, stressed the importance of taking care of yourself and community members. She recommended staying home from events when you do not feel well and seeking medical care despite the removal of the isolation requirement as it pertains to respiratory viruses.

Halbritter said that — while incidence of COVID-19 is “down” in the Penn community, matching city and national trends — community members should still exercise caution.

“It is still upper respiratory illness season, and Penn is still seeing some influenza-like illnesses and a peak in numbers before students left for spring break and high numbers upon the arrival back from spring break,” she said.

Penn reinstated its pre-pandemic immunization requirements for the 2023-2024 academic year, lifting its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students, faculty, and staff. 

Halbritter said that she still recommends remaining up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations and receiving an influenza vaccine annually. Students can receive these vaccinations at Penn’s annual clinics.

“Vaccination is still the best way to prevent these upper respiratory viruses,” said Halbritter.

Halbritter added that — as Penn transitions into the spring — cases of norovirus are likely to increase. She said that Wellness at Penn's guidance for norovirus is very similar to that of COVID-19, RSV, and other upper respiratory illnesses.

“[Norovirus] is one of the gastrointestinal issues or stomach bugs that has been trending at Penn post-spring break,” she said.

Halbritter said that Penn’s public health team remains available to students for questions. She hopes that “people utilize our knowledge, our education and information since they do not have to fear isolation of any kind.”