Written Responses to Remaining Questions In This Fight Together: Keeping the Penn Community Safe and Strong

Time did not permit Benoit Dubé, Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer, to respond to all the questions submitted during the Faculty Senate Seminar held on September 2, 2020.  Dr. Dubé submitted answers in writing to those questions.

Complete video of the seminar can be found here.

Slides from Dr. Dubé's presentation can be found here.

"Coping with COVID-19," referenced in the presentation, can be found here.

"Note to Parents and Guardians during COVID," referenced in the presentation, can be found here.



  1. Questions Answered During Seminar
  2. Remaining Questions


1. Questions Answered During Seminar

Complete video of the seminar can be found here.


A.  How does Penn make decisions about testing, quarantining, or when to close, and how is that communicated to faculty?



B.  What is the purpose of Penn Open Pass if all teaching is being done remotely?

C.  Do faculty who are not coming to campus at all this semester need to complete Penn Open Pass each day? If so, why?

D.  How can we be sure that the private information revealed by Penn Open Pass will not be inappropriately shared?



E.  Can you describe the Penn Compact and the expectations for students who are living near campus but are not in on campus housing?

F.  What happens when a student violates the Compact?



G.  What happens if we run out of quarantine space for students who are on campus?



H.  How can faculty get tested? Do I need to be symptomatic or have had contact with a positive case to get tested at Penn?

I.  How confident are you that the COVID-19 test being administered at Penn are reliable?

J.  Will Penn be getting a form of testing that does not require nasal swabbing?

K.  Why don't we have the kind of tests that are being used at the University of Illinois (i.e., rapid saliva testing)?

L.  Does Penn have a way of knowing whether faculty or staff who have been tested in an off-campus site have tested COVID-19 positive?

M.  What is the average turn-around time to get results? Is it fast enough to head off an outbreak?

N.  Do we have enough contact tracers in place to ensure that those who were in contact with someone who tests positive are traced?



O.  Has Penn expanded its capacity to deal with students who are experiencing mental health issues related to COVID-19?

P.  Where can we get advice and ideas for safely controlling stress, maintaining fitness, mental health, and community during the pandemic?

Q.  Are there groups that have been formed or might be formed to encourage participation to these ends?

R.  What is known about how often we should take breaks during online classes?

S.  What sorts of health, stress, and wellbeing problems should we as teachers be on the lookout for? What practices should we avoid in the interests of the health and safety of our students (i.e., practices that might be surprising and not apparent to us)?



T.  Do we have the hospital capacity to handle an outbreak? Would students, faculty and staff get priority access to our hospital or is it first come, first serve?

U.  Does our hospital have a large supply of Remdesivir and dexamethasone?

V.  Are our doctors using convalescent plasma?

W.  If someone in our community has had COVID-19 and wants to donate plasma is there a way to do it through our hospital?



    X.  Is there a vaccine in trials at Penn? If so, how far along is it?

    Y.  Will faculty, staff, and students be able to get their flu shots through Penn this Fall?

    Z.  Will Penn be able to make a vaccine available when one is declared safe and reliable?

    AA.  If so, which parts of the community will be prioritized for access?



    AB. Does Penn have any plans for dealing with the lingering effects that COVID-19 seems to have on those who have survived the illness?



    AC.  Does Penn have a way of knowing whether faculty or staff who have been tested in an off-campus site have tested COVID-19 positive?

    AD.  Is there a way for the Penn community to know how well Penn is dealing with the pandemic? (I’ve rephrased this original question which was: Why doesn’t Penn have a weekly COVID briefing that can be distributed to the whole community? )

    Complete video of the seminar can be found here.



    2. Remaining Questions

    A. If and when a vaccine is out, as faculty or staff, will we have the choice to opt out of taking the vaccine if we are not comfortable with it?

    No decision has been made.

    Most likely, the decision to take the vaccine will be a personal one, and faculty and staff will be able to opt out. However, as is the case for the influenza vaccine now, there may be specific segments of our workforce who will be asked to receive this immunization as part of their work agreement.


    B. Can staff now get an asymptomatic test at a Penn testing site?  

    Yes, if a faculty or staff member completes PennOpen Pass and receives a red pass due to contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, they can come to Hall of Flags in Houston Hall to be tested. 

    In addition, starting September 14, 2020, faculty and staff who meet certain criteria will be able to enroll in weekly surveillance testing. These criteria will be published the week of September 7, 2020, on the UPenn Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources website.


    C. Suppose most students return to the Penn campus in January 2021 and in-person classes resume.  Does Penn have clear criteria for returning to remote teaching, and if so, what are these criteria?  

    Discussions about the teaching format for the Spring 2021 term are ongoing. The criteria for returning to remote teaching include monitoring the number of positive cases and establishing a threshold for action. Exact numbers are not possible to report at this point in time because they will depend on things such as community prevalence at the start of the term, the availability of vaccines, and treatment options.


    D.  Where can I find more information about participating in Penn's vaccine clinical trials?

    Information about all COVID-19 clinical trials, including the vaccine, can be found here.


    Complete video of the seminar can be found here.