Updates for the Penn State Community

Coronavirus Information

This website will continue to serve as a resource for the University community as leaders at Penn State and around the world respond to the global coronavirus pandemic. It will be updated regularly with critical information and links to key resources.

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Read answers to our community’s most frequently asked questions.

Penn State is strongly encouraging all students, as well as faculty and staff, to get a flu vaccine before the onset of flu season, or certainly before the start of the spring semester, to help alleviate the complicated season that is likely to include flu along with COVID-19. According to the CDC, September and October are good times to get vaccinated, but as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue into January or later. Penn State is encouraging flu vaccination in order to both protect the health of the University community and reduce demand on health care resources in and around Penn State campus communities to maintain capacity for the severely ill.

Student flu vaccine clinics will begin on Sept. 21 and run through Nov. 10 at the University Park campus.

Flu vaccines are free for all Penn State employees, regardless of participation in a University-sponsored health care plan. Employees can choose one of the three options for receiving the fly vaccine in late September through late October, and will receive more information via their Penn State email address.

For additional information about the flu vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/flushot.htm.


University Health Services provides appointment-based, “on-demand” testing for students who have COVID-19-related health issues. The information for students can be found at https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myuhs.

For University Park students who self-identify as having COVID-19 exposure or who have been identified by the contact tracing process, a Vault Health testing site is available on the lower level of the HUB Parking Deck. This is a temporary test site to address current needs and may be extended beyond mid-September if the need continues. By allowing students to be tested who feel that they may have been exposed rather than solely those who have been identified by the contact tracing process, these expanded testing efforts will supplement and hasten the University’s existing contact tracing efforts and the deployment of quarantine and isolation.

Both students and employees may be selected by the University for random screening as part of the University’s ongoing surveillance testing program. Students and employees will be provided with instructions via email about where to go for this testing when they are selected.

For Commonwealth Campus students and employees, random screening is being conducted by Vault Health. Individuals selected for random screening will receive an email that includes specific directions on next steps. It is important that selected individuals register for their test within 48 hours of receiving the email and then complete their test within 48 hours of having the test kit in hand. On-demand testing for Commonwealth Campus students is being conducted by Quest. Symptomatic students should contact their campus health center or testing contact to obtain directions on how to obtain a test kit.


If you are identified as a close contact through contact tracing, you must complete the entire quarantine period regardless of your test result. Since symptoms typically develop between 2 to 14 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19, close contacts are required to complete the 14-day quarantine period from their last contact with the positive individual. Penn State Contract Tracing or Student Support Services will tell you what your release date is pending your last contact with the COVID-19 positive person.


For fall 2020, faculty have been preparing their courses for many months, around half of all courses are already being delivered remotely, and students, faculty and staff have all been aware of the need to prepare for a potential pivot to more fully remote instruction if required for health and safety considerations. Therefore, it is very unlikely that alternative grading will be implemented under the current circumstances or in the event that we must pivot to greater use of remote instruction prior to the planned Nov. 20 switch.


The flexible instructional modes developed for the fall 2020 semester, along with limited classroom capacities, will remain in place at all Penn State campuses in spring 2021, provided that the public health landscape allows for some in-person instruction. The University is taking these measures to maintain social distancing protocols and to meet or exceed state and national health and safety guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Course delivery options will include the following, with LionPATH codes listed in parentheses:

In-Person Instruction (COVID In-Person) — Students meet in the assigned classroom at the time assigned in the course schedule.

Mixed-Mode Instruction (COVID Mixed Mode) — Instructors deploy a combination of instructional modes to meet social distancing requirements.

Remote Synchronous Instruction (COVID Remote) — Students attend all classes remotely at the scheduled time.

Remote Asynchronous Instruction (COVID Web) — Course material is made available for students to work through on their own schedules.

Students will be able to access the spring 2021 schedule of classes with information about the instructional mode for each course on LionPATH beginning Monday, Sept. 28.

Additional information about the spring 2021 semester is available at https://keepteaching.psu.edu/spring-2021-planning/ and in this Penn State News article.


If you are having COVID-19 symptoms, you should 1) leave work immediately if you are at work and self-isolate, 2) notify your supervisor, and 3) contact Penn State Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 or psuoccmed@psu.edu. Occupational Medicine will determine whether you need to be tested and whether the test should be ordered through your family physician or through Occupational Medicine. It is important to contact Occupational Medicine, because its staff will contact your supervisor and the University’s Absence Management on your behalf to inform them about when you will be out of the office and when you may be able to return. If you are working remotely, Occupational Medicine will still be able to advise you about testing. You may also wish to consult this chart if you have questions about how to proceed if you feel ill or feel that you may have been exposed.


To support the health and well-being of the University community this fall, Penn State has implemented a contact tracing process in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Health as part of a layered tracing and testing approach for students and employees across all campuses. To limit community spread and transmission, the University’s contact tracing process focuses on identifying, notifying and monitoring students and employees who came in close contact with a student or employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or is presumed positive, while they were infectious.

The Penn State contact tracing program scales up existing contact tracing protocols and support services in place at the University. Tracing is directed by the COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC) and operated centrally by the Office of Student Affairs, with support and representation from the Commonwealth Campuses. The University and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are working in tandem to support state requirements for case investigation, which is the process of contacting those who test positive for COVID-19, or are presumed positive, and then reaching out to their close contacts.

The following steps outline the contact tracing process and what students and employees can expect:

— Step 1: Penn State will identify individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or presumed positive.

— Step 2: Nursing staff will initiate contact with positive or presumed positive students and employees.

— Step 3: Contact tracers will communicate with employees and students identified as close contacts about health quarantine expectations and offer support.

— Step 4: Case managers will reach out daily, or on an as-needed basis, to students in isolation and/or quarantine to provide support and will notify faculty and instructors if a student is not permitted to attend class.

More detailed information about contact tracing may be found in this Penn State News story.


It is vital that students socialize closely only with roommates, if possible. Students should avoid having friends over and avoid close socialization with people outside of their immediate household. When students do go out, they should wear a mask and maintain social distance. Students are encouraged to engage in outdoors activities, such as walking, hiking or biking, while following distancing and masking recommendations. These steps, though difficult, can slow the spread of the virus and make a real difference.


Penn State’s contact tracing process consists of multiple layers of outreach. This process prioritizes getting the COVID-positive individual into isolation. The first layer involves reaching out to the individual who has tested positive for COVID. Next, contact tracers contact those who have been identified by the COVID-positive individual as close contacts. Finally, contact tracers will notify others who might need to know, such as faculty members and instructors via an email from a “Student Support Services” address via our Maxient system. An example of the notification letter is provided here. We will continue to refine and improve this process as we learn more this semester.

The contact tracing process begins within 24 hours of the University learning of a positive case. Instructors and faculty will be notified that a student in their class has a health-related issue that necessitates their absence from class, unless that students has signed a release allowing for more information to be shared. It is possible, even likely, that a student who has tested positive will notify their professors before the University is able to do so. If a faculty member receives notification from the student prior to receiving formal notification from Penn State, they do not need to contact UHS. The good news is that if a student advises their faculty member directly, then the faculty member will have additional time to work with that student on any adaptions needed to help the student be successful in learning while in isolation or quarantine.

Recently, the University introduced electronic processes that enable someone to self-identify that they have tested positive for COVID or that they may be a close contact of a COVID-positive individual. This may shorten the amount of time that passes before a faculty member is notified of a positive case in their class.


Penn State is conducting a randomized COVID-19 surveillance testing program to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 across all campuses. The University will perform daily testing of at least 1% of the student, faculty and staff population across Penn State’s campuses. Except for Penn College, all Penn State campuses will be included, including Dickinson Law and College of Nursing and College of Medicine students at Hershey.

Students and employees who are learning, working or living on campus will be selected randomly and contacted by email and text message to answer a few screening questions and to schedule an appointment at University Park or to participate in their campus location’s specific surveillance process. If selected, students and employees are required to complete the free testing and should plan to do so within 48-72 hours after being contacted.

For additional information about surveillance testing, read this story in Penn State News. At University Park, the first floor of the HUB Parking Deck is open for Testing and Surveillance Center workers to collect samples from students randomly identified for this surveillance testing. Other convenient, quick-collection sites are being set up in geographically dispersed locations on the University Park campus.


Latest News

Stay up to date with the latest coronavirus-related news from Penn State.
9/18: Penn State COVID-19 Dashboard updated

Penn State has released preliminary coronavirus testing results for the period of Sept. 11 to 17

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In a letter to the University community, Penn State leaders affirm that health and safety is of the utmost priority as fall sports resume

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Penn State’s contact tracing process now includes online COVID-19 reporting forms for students, staff and faculty

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