Research Resumption: FAQ’s

Questions from the May 26th Town Hall

Will the University be conducting virus or antibody testing?

The University will adhere to CDC guidelines for COVID-19  testing, which may change over time (current guidelines:

Currently, the CDC does not recommend baseline testing for all employees, nor does it endorse antibody testing for diagnostic purposes or verification of immunity.

COVID-19 testing is not required for researchers prior to returning to campus.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, do not come to campus and seek medical advice and recommendations regarding testing.  Testing is available.

How will Social Distancing and Safety be maintained?

Social distancing is required on campus.  In most cases this means 6 ft separation, face coverings in general spaces and surgical masks in many labs, and frequent hand washing and cleaning.  Activities are scheduled to minimize density in spaces where research takes place and where general activities occur, such as break rooms.  Elevator occupancy is limited.  Details of the plans are specific to each building.

If you have suggestions for improvements or concerns about social distancing you can contact your supervisor/research director, department, or building administrator.

You can also submit suggestions or report noncompliance to

Confidential and anonymous reports can be made through the 215-P-COMPLY phone line or in a web form.

I have been away from the Philadelphia area and will be returning to resume research. What is the University guidance regarding returning to work?

  • Anyone who is not feeling well should refrain from coming to work and seek medical guidance as indicated?
  • Anyone who has not been in self-quarantine for at least 2 weeks prior to returning to campus must do so for 14 days before resuming their campus activities.
  • Anyone who has had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case must stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days after their last contact with the case even if they do not develop symptoms.

Note: These guidelines apply regardless of where you are coming from, whether domestic or international.

What are the guidelines regarding graduate student and postdoc participation in research during Phase II of Research Resumption?

Participation in research on campus during Phase II is voluntary and each school has developed a process for graduate students and post docs to opt in.  Some use survey tools, others email communications.  Masks and the ability to observe social distancing is required. All members of the University community that opt-in and are approved to return to campus must participate in the PennOpen Pass program. Information about PennOpenPass  can be found here.

There are many options for discussing concerns regarding the process or undue pressure to participate in research during Phase II.  You can contact your dept chair, grad group chair, the school official responsible for student or post doc programming, or students can confidentially report concerns at  and post docs can confidentially report concerns at   .

Biomedical Graduate Students (BGS) and Biomedical Postdoc Programs (BPP) can opt-in via knowledge link.

What if someone in my lab has tested positive or is being tested for COVID-19?

When someone is being tested or has tested positive for COVID-19, contact Environmental Health & Radiation Safety (EHRS). Access to the lab will be restricted until Facilities and Real Estate Services arranges for enhanced cleaning of the lab and areas outside of the lab.

Currently contact tracing for faculty and staff is done by EHRS  215-898-4453 or and for students by Campus Health at 215-746-3535.  Options for digital tracing are under development.

The unit will receive a report that someone is being tested for COVID-19. If you don’t receive a notification, there is no further action that needs to be taken on your part. Please continue to monitor yourself closely for symptoms and practice disease prevention behaviors such as hand washing and social distancing. Should you not feel well, please stay home and contact your primary care provider.

See the complete protocol for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case here.

Will there be a process for symptom screening when I return to work?

Symptom screening is required daily before entering the buildings.   At present, Schools have slightly different processes for screening but all require a self-assessment of a list of symptoms, including temperature, based on a short survey.

The University is developing a three-tier approach to using digital tools to help lower the risk of COVID-19 spread on campus.  It is anticipated that the first tier will be a bidirectional testing or a mobile app for daily symptom screening with a day pass.  The second tier will involve a COVID app that would also assist contact tracers, and the third tier would support exposure notification. Updates will follow as the project progresses.

These tools will be combined with a regimen of regular testing and rigorous human contact tracing within 24 hours following any new positive test results as well as quarantine of cases and high-risk contacts. 

Contact your supervisor, research group leader, faculty mentor, or department with any questions about the process in your school.

By returning to campus, researchers agree to daily symptom screening, compliance with social distancing guidelines, testing if requested and self-isolating, if requested.


Is there a process in place for contact tracing?

In case of potential or verified positive cases, traditional contact tracing is being used to notify individuals that might have come in contact with a positive case.    Currently contact tracing for faculty and staff is done by EHRS  215-898-4453 or Students by Campus Health at 215-746-3535.

A digital platform is being developed to assist contact tracers, and eventually  would support exposure notification.    

Human Resources has information on contact tracing that applies until a digital platform is in place.

What are the arrangements for parking on campus during Phase I of Research Resumption?

Permit Holders.  Penn Parking will continue to offer free parking to its permit holders until July 31, 2020. Permit holders are asked to park in the garage or lot to which they are assigned.  Additionally, payroll deductions remain suspended at this time.

Commuters with Penn-Affiliated Identification. Commuters who are not permit holders but can display a valid Penn, UPHS, or Penn affiliate identification card upon exiting the parking facility also will be allowed to park for free in Penn garages (not lots) if space is available. 

All Other Customers. The temporary $6.00/day rate for all other parkers ended on June 1, 2020.  Normal rates resumed on that day.