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08-13-20-mask-college-hall-kylie-cooper
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country largely due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, Penn joined the CDC in reversing course and strongly recommending vaccinated community members wear masks indoors. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Penn will reverse course and strongly recommend — but not require — that fully vaccinated community members wear masks indoors. 

The move comes as COVID-19 cases across the country continue to rise, largely due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said though the University will not require mask wearing for fully vaccinated community members as of now, Penn continues to monitor the situation and the decision may change in the future.

Penn also has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks. A total of 35 community members have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 4, a total of 19 more positive tests than from the four week period prior, June 6 through July 3. 

Dubé said the recent cases are a combination of unvaccinated community members testing positive as well as fully vaccinated community members, which are being deemed as "breakthrough cases." He said breakthrough cases are rare, but still something "we must all come to expect."

"We need to acknowledge this reality that COVID-19 is not going away," Dubé said. "Vaccines were never meant to be 100% effective, and are continuing to do what they promised they would: they are limiting infections, severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths."

Director of Communications for Student Wellness Mary Kate Coghlan said Penn currently has no plans to reinstate a weekly COVID-19 testing policy in wake of the shifting mask suggestions, and increase in cases across the country.

Brown University announced it would begin requiring students to be tested for COVID-19 weekly, regardless of vaccination status, on July 27, just weeks after removing such a policy.

Penn will, however, require all students to be tested for COVID-19 once upon arrival to Philadelphia, as a part of its gateway testing program, between Aug. 9 and Sept. 3. The University will also not require students to quarantine upon arriving to campus or participate in a quiet period.

All students, faculty, and staff are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the fall semester, which the University is still planning to hold as a fully in-person, on-campus experience.

New Student Orientation is set to begin in person on Aug. 25, Second-Year Orientation will begin on Aug. 29, and the first day of classes — which are set to be held widely in person for the first time in over a year — is Aug. 30. 

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