Responding to COVID-19: Spring 2022

Weitzman students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated extraordinary flexibility and resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen the benefits of a multi-layered public health approach that has successfully kept our community healthy, and together we can navigate the current academic year safely and productively.

Below are answers to many of your frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the School’s and the University’s health and safety measures for Academic Year 2021-2022. Please note that this information may be adapted at any time based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

You may also consult the following pages for additional information:

Please email Karl Wellman, Director of Operations and Planning, at kwellman@design.upenn.edu if you have questions that are not answered here.

Face Coverings

Are face coverings required in University buildings?

Yes. Effective January 10, 2022, double masking is required indoors for all, including individuals who are fully vaccinated. 

Exceptions to the masking requirement include single occupancy offices, with roommates in our college houses suites/rooms, and by permission in instructional settings for academic reasons. These exceptions do not apply to unvaccinated individuals or to visitors. All unvaccinated individuals and visitors must remain masked at all times.

The University has also implemented a process for reporting non-compliance with the mask mandate through a simple online form.

Vaccines

What does “fully vaccinated” mean?

Fully vaccinated means you have had both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine (or, for international students, another vaccine that has been “pre-qualified” or approved for Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO)), and at least 2 weeks have passed. Note that faculty, staff, and post-doctoral fellows are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions made for individuals for medical and religious reasons, and provide documentation through Workday by October 15 [note new date]. Students were required to be fully vaccinated, with limited exceptions made for individuals for medical and religious reasons, by August 31, and provide documentation through the Student Health Services portal. As announced by the University in an email to the community on December 31, 2021, all members of the Penn community who do not have an approved exemption are also required to get a booster vaccine shot by January 31, 2022 or within 30 days of becoming eligible.

How do I know if my colleagues at work and classmates are fully vaccinated?

Information about an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status is considered personal and confidential unless someone chooses to disclose it.

The University is requiring all faculty, staff, and postdocs, as well as students, to be vaccinated against COVID-19, except for those with approved medical or religious exemptions. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be required to participate in twice-weekly COVID-19 screening testing, and to comply with all other public health preventive measures required for faculty, staff, and students, including completing daily PennOpen Pass Screening, and wearing masks while indoors at all times. By participating in weekly screening testing and adhering to these other measures, unvaccinated individuals are taking appropriate precautions to protect their colleagues. Information about vaccination status will be maintained securely, with access limited to those individuals engaged in health and safety functions at Penn, all on a need-to-know basis.

The University leadership will partner with schools and centers to ensure that any faculty or staff member, post-doc, or student who is not vaccinated adhere to this twice weekly COVID-19 testing regimen. Each school and center will be notified if a faculty, staff, or student does not comply and will administer University-approved sanctions. Additionally, individuals who do not comply with twice weekly COVID-19 tests will be issued a Red Pass immediately after the first missed test and will not be permitted to access University buildings.

 

Can I ask someone their vaccination status?

In order to respect each person’s privacy, and to ensure compliance with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), staff and faculty are not allowed to inquire about a colleagues’ vaccination status in an official work capacity.   

 

How will the University enforce the requirement that all staff, faculty, postdocs, and students are vaccinated?

As noted above, University administration has partnered with schools and centers to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students are vaccinated, with the exception of members of the Penn Community who have requested and received an exemption from this requirement for medical or religious reasons. 

Faculty, staff, or students who are not vaccinated due to a medical or religious exemption MUST adhere to a twice weekly COVID-19 testing regimen. The University will track compliance with this requirement and will notify schools and centers if any of their faculty, staff, or students do not comply. Schools and centers will follow up and administer appropriate sanctions and/or disciplinary action. Faculty, staff, and students who are required to test and fail to be tested twice in a given week will also receive a non-compliant Red Pass that prohibits them from entering any Penn buildings.   


What percentage of the Weitzman community is vaccinated?

It is important to note that the percentage of faculty, staff, postdocs or students who are unvaccinated in the Penn Community is extremely low.  As of November 1, 2021, 100% of Weitzman standing and associated faculty members and postdocs were vaccinated, 99% of students were vaccinated, and over 95% of staff were vaccinated. All others are participating in twice weekly testing.

Given that such a high percentage of our community is vaccinated and the fact that all members of the Penn community are required to wear masks indoors, the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 in the classroom is extremely low, according to the CDC and Penn’s Chief Wellness Officer, Benoit Dubé. Additionally, in the past year, there were no cases of classroom transmission on our campus.  In August, when classroom teaching began in earnest across campus, there were students who tested positive, and in all cases, they were found to have taken part in social events off campus, unmasked, sharing food and drink in close proximity. The University also tested the faculty and staff members who interacted with the students in class, and none came back with a positive result. A statement from Dr. Dubé regarding the University’s success in preventing classroom transmission of COVID-19 at Penn is available to read in its entirety

 

Will COVID-19 vaccines prevent breakthrough infections, particularly from the Delta Variant?

While vaccination breakthroughs are possible, those who are vaccinated will likely be asymptomatic or have milder symptoms.

It is important to note that the already low incidences of breakthroughs decrease significantly when all parties – vaccinated and non-vaccinated – wear masks.

The extremely high vaccination rate of the Penn community (well above the target of the Centers for Disease Control), PPE, social distancing for unvaccinated individuals, contract tracing, symptomatic screening/testing, and PennOpen Pass will continue to protect the health and safety of Penn faculty, staff, and students.


What if I learn of a colleague or classmate on campus who is not fully vaccinated and not using a face covering?

Please reach out to Karl Wellman, Director of Operations and Planning and Weitzman Chief Safety Officer (kwellman@design.upenn.edu), if you have individual questions or public-health concerns related to COVID-19.

 

Do I still need to enroll in PennOpen Pass and complete a daily symptom tracker?

PennOpen Pass is again required of ALL members of the Penn community, even on days when you are not on campus. The University is requiring all members of the Penn community to participate in PennOpen Pass, the University’s daily symptom tracker designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread within the Penn community. For information about how to access PennOpen Pass and to request daily reminders (which the University is encouraging faculty, staff, postdocs and students to do), visit the PennOpen Pass website.

All members of the Penn community should use PennOpen Pass to report COVID-19 symptoms when staying home sick or reporting a COVID-19 exposure. The most up-to-date clinical and public health guidance will direct you to the appropriate care and testing.

Reporting Symptoms

What should I do if I experience symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of my vaccination status?

Regardless of your vaccination status, you should report COVID-19 symptoms when staying home sick or reporting a COVID-19 exposure by completing the PennOpen Pass symptom checker (When in doubt, fill it out!). This will initiate a process through which a Penn representative with the most up-to-date clinical and public health guidance will contact you about next steps and will direct you to the appropriate care and testing. 

You can also contact COVID Resource Call Center at 215.573.7096 or covidresource@upenn.edu. Hours of operation are 9:00am – 4:00pm, Eastern Time, Monday – Friday. Closed on Labor Day, Monday, September 6.


What if I learn that a student in my class has COVID-19 or has COVID-19 symptoms?

If students report COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, they should notify the COVID-19 Resource Call Center by calling 215.573.7096 or emailing covidresource@upenn.edu or by completing PennOpen Pass. They are also required to isolate for five days, per CDC guidelines, even if fully vaccinated. Note that the isolation period was revised down from 10 days, as of December 31, 2021.

The University’s Campus Wellness Team handles exposure notifications and contact tracing as necessary, in addition to providing support and guidance to those who are diagnosed with COVID-19. After a faculty, staff, or student contacts the COVID-19 Resource Call Center for guidance about a COVID-19 diagnosis, the Wellness Team will determine whether others may have been exposed, whether this exposure meets the criteria for contact tracing, and whether notification of classmates, faculty, staff, or others is warranted. Faculty or staff should not share the individual’s health status with others, even if the affected individual’s name is not used.

Faculty have been encouraged to work with students individually if they need to miss class because of a COVID-19 diagnosis to come up with a plan for them to obtain class materials and make up missed work. Some options include alternative assignments, using a web camera and laptop to record the class, or allowing students to participate via Zoom. (As a reminder, Weitzman policy restricts the use of class recordings.) Weitzman IT Services is available to assist faculty in identifying the necessary equipment to support this option. Faculty can also visit the Remote Teaching and Learning guide on the Weitzman website for details. The Center for Teaching and learning also provides guidance in their online guide to Strategies to Help Students Stay on Track When They Must Miss Class.

Testing Positive for COVID-19

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, even if fully vaccinated, is required to isolate for five days, per CDC guidelines. You should also notify the Covid Resource Call Center by calling 215.573.7096 or emailing covidresource@upenn.edu and by completing PennOpen Pass. Note that the isolation period was revised down from 10 days, as of December 31, 2021.

Eating and Drinking in Weitzman Buildings

Eating and drinking (except sipping beverages at your desk) are prohibited within Weitzman buildings, including the basement commons at Meyerson Hall, from January 12 through January 23, 2022, with the exception of individual staff and faculty members in a private office with the door closed. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 transmission rates and other relevant public health indicators during the month of January to determine whether to allow eating in the Meyerson basement once students return to campus.

Instruction During the Spring 2022 Semester

Will Weitzman classes be taught in-person or online or both?

Weitzman classes, seminars, and studios will meet virtually beginning on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 and resume in person beginning on Monday, January 24, 2022. 

The Center for Teaching and Learning has assembled resources for Resuming In Person Teaching, including Strategies to Help Students Stay on Track When They Must Miss Class

 

What if a faculty member would like to seek a medical exemption from teaching in-person?

Faculty seeking such a medical accommodation should be referred to or reach out to the Office of Affirmative Action (OAA) and Equal Opportunity Programs either by calling 215.898.6883 or emailing oaaeop@pobox.upenn.edu. Once received by OAA, the medical information provided is treated as sensitive and confidential and only shared as necessary with those who have a need to know in order to review the request for the accommodation. OAA serves as the facilitator between the faculty member and their department/school to determine if the accommodation can be granted.

Ventilation in Weitzman Buildings

Do ventilation systems in Weitzman Buildings meet CDC standards for minimizing transmission of COVID-19?

Yes. Ventilation systems at Weitzman buildings and other Penn facilities were optimized in March of 2020 in consultation with Penn’s Department of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (EHRS) and Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), and will continue to be operated according to the same standards. These standards are set by the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and have been adopted by CDC and local public health authorities to aid in minimizing the potential for COVID-19 infection. For more information, refer to the FRES website

It is important to remember that HVAC systems are just one factor in minimizing the transmission of infection, along with face coverings, vaccination, and testing. Since there are fewer infectious or vulnerable people in Weitzman buildings, the risk of infection for individuals who are in compliance with Penn and Weitzman guidelines is extremely low.