Fall 2020-2021 COVID-19 Testing Approach

Oct. 13, 2020 - The University has deployed a testing approach during the 2020-21 fall semester. Testing is one tool the University is using to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread within the Penn community. Please visit the COVID-19 Dashboard for program testing results.


Gateway Testing
The University provided gateway testing between August 1 and September 12 to all undergraduate and graduate students involved in on-campus activities or living in West Philadelphia to assess asymptomatic individuals as they arrived in Philadelphia.


Screening Program
The University is providing a screening program to mitigate risk to the Penn community. The screening program consists of a once-weekly nasal swab for COVID-19 PCR testing. Screening tests are performed on asymptomatic individuals. Segments of the Penn community are required to participate in this weekly testing program, conducted primarily in Houston Hall on campus. This testing applies to students, faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and staff who have a sustained presence on campus in congregate settings, defined as environments in which a number of people reside, meet, or gather in a common shared space, without the use of personal protective equipment (such as that used, for example, by health care practitioners in a clinical or laboratory setting). This includes:

  • Students, faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and staff who are present on campus for at least eight hours every week and whose activities are done in a congregate setting that involves at least 10 people.
  • Students, faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and staff who share a residential space with three or more individuals with whom they are not related, including those who live in College Houses.


Symptomatic Testing
Student, faculty, postdocs, and staff with symptoms have free testing available. The University, along with our partners in Penn Medicine, established PennOpen Pass, an ongoing comprehensive program for tracking COVID-19 symptoms among students, faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and staff who participate. This rapid-identification, digital tool requires the individual to complete a daily symptom check and to self-identify any recent exposure to COVID-19. Since its launch in the summer, daily symptom checks on PennOpen Pass are required by those who are on campus. PennOpen Pass provides symptomatic individuals with follow-up instructions to protect themselves and others.


Close Contact Testing
Testing is also available for close contacts. These close contacts are either identified through contact tracers or self-reported through PennOpen Pass. For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.

About Screening Tests at Houston Hall, Hall of Flags
The University currently administers the PCR anterior nares (lower nostril, less-invasive) nasal test on campus, primarily in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall. It takes about 48 hours to receive a result from the on-campus test.

For information on the testing location at Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags, including what to bring, scheduling, and other important details, please visit the Penn Wellness COVID-19 website.

For additional questions related to testing, please email covidtesting@upenn.edu.

For information on contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation, please visit the Penn Wellness COVID-19 website.