Responding to COVID-19: Spring 2022

No Classroom Transmission of COVID on Penn’s Campus to Date

August 30, 2021

Looking back at the past year, we can unequivocally state that there have not been any cases of classroom transmission on our campus. Of course, we understand that uncertainty remains and appreciate the concerns you may have. While we have had members of the Penn community become infected with COVID-19, transmission occurred predominantly off-campus, in social settings where masks were not worn, and food and drink were being shared without physical distancing. These types of transmissions did occur infrequently on campus, in break rooms and lunchrooms.

Recognizing that some may feel that the presence of the delta variant in our communities negates these findings, we are restating that these findings remain true. In fact, during the month of August, classroom teaching began in earnest across campus and across graduate and pre-freshmen and orientation programs. During this period, while cluster(s) have been identified amongst groups of students (with the largest being a group of about 50 students), all these students had taken part in social events off campus, unmasked, sharing food and drink in close proximity with one another. These students also received classroom instruction before they were diagnosed with COVID-19. In the cases where such exposures and/or clusters have been identified, the faculty and staff engaged with those classes in classrooms were tested and none of them came back with a positive result. In an abundance of caution, all the students in attendance were also tested in the case of the large cluster, and using contact tracing, every positive student was linked back to the party, subsequent social events, or household exposures.

While the delta variant is omnipresent in our surrounding communities and continues to spread at high rates, we write this to reassure you that public health strategies are foremost in our fall planning, and the strategies we have in place are working as intended. We are able to identify and isolate cases quickly and efficiently through our contact tracing efforts, and this together with masking means the classroom environment has remained safe. We will continue to actively monitor the situation, follow the science, and do all we can to provide a healthy and safe environment.

Benoit Dubé, MD
Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer