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In an email on Feb. 22, 2022, Penn announced the ending of the double-masking requirement for community members.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Penn administrators lifted the indoor double-masking requirement for community members as a result of last week's "remarkably low" COVID-19 positivity rate.

In a message to the Penn community on Feb. 22,  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 that measures announced on Jan. 12 that mandated either double-masking, or the use of a KN95, N95, or KF95 mask in campus buildings are now reversed. They added that wearing masks indoors is still required.

This change comes after the campus positivity rate reached a new semester-low of 0.97% for the week of Feb. 13 to Feb. 19 — down from 1.86% the prior week. The undergraduate positivity rate also sharply decreased to 1.16% — down from 3.11% the week before.

“The removal of the double-masking requirement is in direct response to the continued decrease in positivity on campus and in our surrounding communities," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said. "In alignment with the recently announced city guidance, we will continue to adjust our public health requirements in the coming weeks.”

Overall COVID-19 cases decreased to 74 in the last week — down from 170 from the week of Feb. 6 to 12. Campus isolation capacity also rose to 91.1%, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard. Undergraduate students comprised 34 of the positive cases.

In the email, the administrators wrote that they still "strongly encourage" the use of these additional measures, and that masks are still required in all campus buildings in accordance with Philadelphia's indoor mask mandate. 

When the double-masking policy went into effect on Jan. 12, the campus-wide positivity rate was 13.22%, and the undergraduate positivity rate was 18.74%. COVID-19 cases were at a record high when 1,281 community members tested positive. 

The spring 2022 semester began with two weeks of online classes, as well as a ban on indoor social gatherings — which was recently lifted on Feb. 15 in response to decreasing positivity rates. 

Several students previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they worried the double-masking policy was not enforced with enough rigor. Immunocompromised students were worried that the relaxed enforcement of COVID-19 policies posed a risk to their safety.

The administrators also added in the email that the deadline for those who are eligible but have not yet uploaded their booster vaccination documentation on Workday or the Student Health Portal is Feb. 28. Penn announced the campus-wide booster vaccine requirement on Dec. 21 amid the surge in the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

"We are grateful to every member of the Penn community for these highly positive trends," the administrators wrote, adding that they will continue to assess COVID-19 policies as the situation continues to develop. 

Senior Reporter Jonah Miller contributed reporting.