Omicron Causes Delays, New Requirements
After a somewhat normal fall semester of activities, athletics, and classes, the Omicron variant surge caused a disruption to the start of the University’s spring semester.
When classes began on January 12, they were conducted in a virtual format, with students returning to the classroom on January 24. Undergraduate student move-in to campus housing was also delayed by one week, beginning on January 15.
As COVID-19 cases hit record numbers in January, all students were required to complete pre-arrival testing 48 hours before returning to campus. As an additional safety measure, all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs needed to complete a gateway test after returning to campus, regardless of vaccination status or the result of pre-arrival testing.
The University also instituted a more stringent masking policy with all members of the Penn community required to double mask or wear a KN95/KF94 or N95 mask inside campus buildings.
The University “strongly discouraged” indoor gatherings—both University-sponsored events and private gatherings hosted by students and student groups—until those restrictions were lifted on February 15. Indoor dining throughout campus was suspended at the beginning of the semester but reopened on January 24. And Penn Athletics restricted in-person spectators for winter sports on December 31, before reopening games to the public on February 1 with proof of vaccination and other mitigation measures in place.
“We are grateful to every member of the Penn community who has come together to help us get through this latest phase of the COVID pandemic,” Amy Gutmann and other University leaders wrote in a January 20 message to the Penn community, citing declining COVID rates on campus as an indicator it was safe to resume in-person classes.
“We are hopeful for better days ahead, as we continue to assess and respond to the unpredictable course of this virus.”