Responding to COVID-19: Spring 2022

Dear Students:

Happy new year!  We hope you have had a restful and restorative winter break.

We are writing to follow up on the email that we sent on December 22 regarding COVID-19 testing and quarantining procedures for the Spring 2021 Semester. This is also a reminder for those of you who meet the criteria to enroll in the Penn Cares spring testing program by January 18, 2021. This email includes a lot of important information, so we encourage you to read it thoroughly. You can also find this information and the latest guidance on COVID-19 testing and other measures to keep the Weitzman community healthy and safe at www.design.upenn.edu/2020-2021.  

Here are six steps to prepare for the spring semester. Much of this information focuses on students who will be in Philadelphia for the Spring 2021 Semester; however, the first bullet applies to everyone. More detailed information about testing is included at the bottom of this email and in the attached PDF.

  1. “Learning From Address” in Penn in Touch

Be sure to keep your “Learning From Address” current in Penn in Touch. This helps your faculty account for time zone or other differences that may impact your learning during the semester. It also enables Penn to provide the best public health response to COVID-19 based on who is or is not in Philadelphia. To update your “Learning From” address:

  1. Go to Penn in Touch
  2. Click on “Profile, privacy, and Emergency” in the left column
  3. Click on “Address Information” in the dropdown menu that appears
  4. Click on the “Learning From Address” tab and fill in your updated address
  5. Click “Update” at the bottom of the page to save your changes

Keep your “Learning From Address” up-to-date! For example, if you start the semester in China, use that as your “Learning From Address.” If you then arrive in Philadelphia in February, add your Philadelphia address at that time.

  1. Quarantine for Students Returning to Philadelphia

Anyone coming from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must complete a 14-day precautionary travel quarantine, which is the Center for Disease Control’s gold standard. Students should schedule a “Gateway” COVID-19 Test as close as possible to the day of their arrival in Philadelphia (see #4 below). Results of the gateway test do not change the requirement to quarantine for 14 days. One cannot test out of quarantine.

  1. Be Sure to Enroll in PennOpen Pass and Complete Daily Symptom Checks

All students who are living in the US and particularly in or near Philadelphia are asked to complete a daily symptom check using PennOpen Pass, whether you plan to come to campus or notCompleting PennOpen Pass on your phone or device takes less than a minute, and the data it generates is important for tracking and monitoring COVID symptoms in our community. Completing PennOpen Pass is also the fastest route to testing for those who are exhibiting symptoms or who have had an exposure, so there is a direct benefit to compliance. We hope you will do your part to support the University’s larger public health goals and understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Also, please note that a Green Passis required to enter University buildings or board Penn Transit, even for those who only occasionally make campus visits. Additional information can be found on the PennOpenn pass website.

  1. Testing

Graduate students are required to sign up for ongoing screening tests if you will be coming to campus one or more times per week in the Spring semester. Please note that Weitzman students who are living in on-campus housing are required to be tested twice per week.

Please schedule your first test on the first day you arrive back to campus. After completing this initial Gateway test, you also will need to sign up for weekly testing. Information about Penn Cares, the University’s Spring COVID-19 Testing Program is included at the bottom of this email and attached via PDF. Even if all of your classes will be online, local students who plan to use Weitzman facilities or other campus buildings (such as study space in the Library) on a weekly basis will need to enroll in the testing program.

  1. Review Spring Protocols and Resources
  1. Quiet Period

The University will be observing a Quiet Period from January 6-31 during which no in-person activities or gatherings are planned. The Quiet Period does not apply to Weitzman students attending in-person classes that begin on January 20. All members of the Penn Community are asked to observe this quiet period in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the first few weeks back on campus together.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY’S SPRING COVID TESTING PROGRAM

The Penn Cares spring testing program launched earlier this month for those who were on campus. Testing, as well as following all public health guidance – masking, maintaining a safe physical distance, and making sure to wash your hands often – is just one piece of the solution to helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. This testing program – which significantly increases our testing capacity and enhances our ability to assess COVID-19 prevalence in the University community – helps allow us to welcome students back for the spring semester. Please read on to find out what role you will play in this historic transformation of our campus during the pandemic. 

Who Must Test

Twice per week:

  1. Undergraduates students living on or off campus in the Philadelphia area will be tested on preassigned day pairs.
  2. Faculty, postdocs, staff, and graduate students who live on campus will be tested on selected day pairs (Monday & Thursday, Tuesday & Friday, Wednesday & Saturday) of their choosing.

Once per week:

  1. Graduate students who come to campus each week.
  2. Faculty, emeritus faculty and other retirees, postdocs, academic affiliates, and staff who are on campus for four or more hours each week throughout the semester.

Who should NOT participate in Penn Cares Screening Testing: 

  • Anyone who comes to campus less than once per week or is not enrolled in the Penn Cares screening protocol
  • These criteria have been established based on federal, state and local guidelines as well as in consultation with public health experts. They are subject to change.

Gateway Testing and the Quiet Period

Gateway testing, or day-of arrival testing, is required of students only. This testing establishes the baseline prevalence of COVID-19. On the day of their arrival, students who are on-campus residents must drop off their belongings and report directly to a testing site. They must then return to their College House and quarantine until they receive their test results. Students who live off campus also must perform a gateway test as soon as they arrive, and no later than January 18.  

From January 6 to 31, the University will observe a Quiet Period during which there will be no planned activities or large gatherings, with the exception of Weitzman students attending in-person classes that begin meeting on January 20. The goal is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in these first weeks together.

As soon as students take their gateway test, they should enroll in their regular testing schedule using the online scheduling application.

Faculty, postdocs, and staff who meet the testing criteria must enroll by January 18. This enrollment requirement is fulfilled when they schedule their first test.

Here is what to expect:

Screening Testing Is by Appointment Only

Screening testing is by appointment only, by 9pm of the previous day; walk-ins cannot be accommodated due to the processes which prepare the labels and staffing for sample collection. Select a day, time, and testing site by visiting the new web-based COVID Scheduling application, where you will also give consent to receive the new saliva-based test. A tip sheet provides step-by-step instructions for those who need assistance.

Undergraduate students have been put into specific twice-per-week cohorts which will limit the testing options available to them. 

Appointments are booked at 15-minute intervals on a first-come, first-served basis. Scheduling in advance improves chances of receiving your desired testing day, time, and location. 

Locations and Schedule

​Testing sites span the campus from west to east and north to south. Choose the location and time that fit your schedule. (Schedule in advance so your first choice is available).

Before the Screening Test Appointment

Saliva-based testing requires a little bit of prep work. For at least 30 minutes before the scheduled testing time, refrain from certain activities, such as eating and drinking, to avoid contaminating the sample.

Anyone who will be on campus is required to complete a daily symptom check on PennOpen Pass. Only a Green PennOpen Pass allows access to campus facilities and transit. A Red Pass provides instructions for next steps. 

Plan to be “hands-free” during the testing process. All coffee, water bottles, etc. must be discarded and phones must be put away prior to testing. Storage of personal possessions will not be available at the testing site. 

During and After the Screening Test Appointment

Once a Green PennOpen Pass is shown, complete touchless check-in with a current PennCard. Staff will assist you during the collection process. 

Plan to spend at most 30 minutes completing the testing process. Results will be available at Penn’s Covid Results website within 48 hours. As always, remember to wear a face covering, remain physically distant, and wash hands frequently.

Learning and Working Remotely

Not everyone will return to campus or Philadelphia for the spring semester. For those who will continue to work remotely and do not fit the criteria to be on campus, the University still strongly encourages enrollment in PennOpen Pass. A Green Pass is required to enter University or Penn Medicine buildings or board Penn Transit, even for those who only occasionally make campus visits. Reporting symptoms or exposure in PennOpen Pass, also expedites access to the clinical guidance of Penn Medicine clinicians, and diagnostic testing if necessary.

For More Information

More information on the process and the program is available on the Penn COVID-19 Response website. 

Thank you very much for your support and your partnership.  We look forward to “seeing” you next week.

Sincerely, 
Emily McCully and Karl Wellman