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.

Back to State

Learn more about Penn State's plans for students, faculty and staff.

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Latest FAQs

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

Penn State has launched an integrated effort to remind faculty, staff and students at all campuses and in adjacent communities of the importance of doing their part to limit the spread of COVID-19. “Mask Up or Pack Up” is a research-based campaign that is also launched in State College to create a seamless message for students and other members of the community. The creative execution, “Mask Up or Pack Up,” is grounded in insights from surveys and focus groups comprised of students, faculty, staff and the community, and is a direct expectation for everyone to take personal actions to help create a safer environment as students return to campuses across the commonwealth. Research revealed that the top two concerns from key stakeholders include being forced to return to a fully remote environment, as well as the critical need to protect those who are the most vulnerable in our community. The intent is to reinforce the Wolf Administration and University safety guidelines, shift attitudes and behaviors of the hard-to-persuade, and make essential preventative behaviors widely practiced.

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Students and employees should become familiar with guidelines and expectations for quarantine and isolation for this semester, as part of the University’s comprehensive multi-layered approach to testing, contact tracing and monitoring in line with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. While isolation and quarantine are both intended to limit the spread of disease, they have different meanings and different time requirements. Quarantine helps prevent people from spreading coronavirus before they know they are sick or if they are infected without feeling symptoms, while isolation is reserved for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.

Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, time requirements for quarantine and isolation depend on a variety of factors, including whether an individual has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, is showing symptoms of COVID-19, has tested positive for COVID-19, and more.

The following provides a summary of quarantine and isolation time requirements for students and employees.

Pre-arrival self-quarantine:

— As part of the University’s Back to State plans, all faculty, staff and students should self-quarantine — even if you do not feel sick or have no symptoms — for at least 7 days immediately prior to your arrival on campus, before moving into off-campus housing, or prior to starting classes if you are already living off-campus. International students should also quarantine for at least 7 days after their arrival in the U.S. and prior to participating in on-campus activities and/or beginning classes. However, this may not be possible for every international student depending on their planned date of arrival in the U.S., which may mean they need to quarantine at their current location, take precautions (such as mask wearing and social distancing) during travel, and then continue their 7-day quarantine once they arrive in the U.S. Students should plan accordingly. The 7-day period is not an official quarantine (see below), as individuals being asked to partake in the 7-day process have not indicated exposure to the virus or have not been displaying symptoms. The 7-day period is another layer to encourage prudent behavior and diligence in avoiding risk prior to coming to campus. If necessary, in accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, employees and students returning to Pennsylvania from out of state should complete a 14-day quarantine after traveling from states with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

Quarantine:

— Since symptoms typically develop between 2 to 14 days after exposure, students and employees who believe they have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and/or been identified during the University’s contact tracing process must quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with the individual, in accordance with the CDC guidelines. The CDC provides guidance on when to start and end quarantine based on various scenarios.

— Faculty and staff should quarantine at home, students living on campus will quarantine in space identified on their campus, and case managers will evaluate quarantine needs for students living off campus as part of the contact tracing process. During quarantine, you may or may not develop symptoms of COVID-19. If you do experience symptoms, please contact your health care provider; students can contact University Health Services, their campus health center or their primary care provider.

Isolation:

— Students and employees who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate for at least 10 days. Students and employees who are experiencing symptoms and awaiting test results will need to isolate immediately. If the test result is negative, they no longer need to isolate. Faculty and staff should isolate at home, students living on campus will stay in isolation space on campus, and students living off campus will be accommodated with on-campus isolation space to the extent that the University is able. Individuals should not return to on-campus work or classes until cleared by a medical professional in accordance with CDC guidelines.

— According to CDC isolation guidance, individuals who tested positive and experience symptoms can be with others after at least 10 days since their symptoms first appeared, after at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication, and after symptoms have improved. Individuals who tested positive but did not experience symptoms can be with others after 10 days have passed since the date of the positive test. For those who experienced severe illness, your healthcare provider may recommend that you stay in isolation for longer than 10 days after your symptoms first appeared (possibly up to 20 days).

During the semester, students who test positive or are exhibiting symptoms should immediately contact University Health Services, their campus health center, or primary care provider. Faculty and staff who test positive will need to report their positive status to their supervisor, so their unit can begin the contact tracing process, and self-isolate off campus. For more information about the University’s testing and contact tracing plan, read this story in Penn State News.

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Masks with exhaust valves are not acceptable. This is because valves allow air and respiratory droplets to escape the mask, which results in less protection for others. Those who are wearing a mask with a valve do not meet Penn State’s mask wearing requirements. Guidelines surrounding the use of cloth masks are available on the EHS website and also on the University’s virus information website. Procedure masks are also acceptable. If you encounter someone wearing a mask with an exhaust valve in the instructional or work setting, respond to the person as though they forgot to wear a mask. Offer then an extra mask and remind the individual to not wear a mask with a valve in the future.

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The University has approximately 45 designated Remote Learning Rooms at University Park for students to use to view their remote classes individually or together in small groups, while social distancing and wearing masks, this fall. These spaces are smaller general purpose classrooms that have not been scheduled for classes because social distancing (due to COVID-19) did not permit for the necessary occupancy. So these rooms are free for this use. In addition to regular student spaces on campus that have had seating adjusted for social distancing, these rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for access for remote classes. Students will need to bring their own devices. Room locations and capacity are available by selecting the “Remote Learning Rooms” option on the campus map a map.psu.edu.

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As part of the University’s comprehensive multi-layered approach to testing, contact tracing and monitoring announced in a July 30 town hall, students selected for the required pre-arrival COVID-19 testing will receive an email to their @psu.edu address no later than Wednesday, Aug. 5, with an individualized registration link at Vault Health’s testing website for students residing in the United States, instructions on ordering a test kit, and directions about the testing process.

Students should order their test kit immediately upon receiving those instructions to allow enough time to receive results before coming to campus. The entire testing process will take at least seven to 10 days from the time students order their test kit. Once the test is taken, results can be expected generally within 48-72 hours after the sample kit arrives at the lab for processing.

After receiving the testing kit in the mail, a telehealth visit can begin. The test is performed through a secure video visit supervised by a Vault Health practitioner, eliminating the potential risk of exposure to others involved with in-person sample collection.

Test results will be sent to the students via a Vault Health email. A copy of the test result also will be sent to Penn State.

Frequently asked questions with detailed information are available on the Student Affairs website. Students who are selected for testing will receive a phone number to call for additional questions specific to the pre-arrival Vault Health testing process.

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The University is employing strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community and national levels.

Penn State will be implementing a robust COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program that will consist of in-house and third-party contracted testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. The plan includes testing for 30,000 students, faculty and staff from locations with a high prevalence of the disease before arrival on campus, as well as daily testing throughout the semester.

The University will conduct surveillance testing of faculty, staff and students on its campuses throughout the semester, testing about 1% of our campus populations (about 700 people) per day. The plan includes random and risk-stratified surveillance testing as well as asymptomatic testing for individuals who are identified in the contact-tracing process.

Penn State is in the process of signing contracts with COVID-19 testing companies, including Vault Health, for elements of the testing plan. Additionally, the University has set up on-campus testing capabilities using existing resources in a new Testing and Surveillance Center, which will be used for surveillance testing at University Park.

Penn State will hire additional staff to serve as contact tracers as needed to support all campuses and plans to enhance access to early health-care consultation and treatment. Contact-tracing supports virus case detection and is designed to help prevent future outbreaks. The University also is building capacity to isolate and quarantine individuals who test positive, including support for isolated persons, to facilitate proper medical care.

More detailed information about symptomatic and asymptomatic testing may be found in this Penn State News story.

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The University is employing strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community and national levels.

The Penn State contact tracing program will leverage and scale-up existing contact tracing protocols in place at the University. The spoke-and-hub modeled program will be run by the Office of Student Affairs, with representation from Commonwealth Campuses, and will include consistent oversight for all students, faculty and staff. The team of Student Affairs personnel, nurses and contact tracers will support the University community and enhance access to early health-care consultation and treatment. Contact-tracing supports virus case detection and is designed to help prevent future outbreaks.

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

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The University has developed requirements for students to meet prior to returning to campus and local communities this fall semester. Before returning to Penn State, all undergraduate and graduate students at every campus location must:

—Read and sign the new required “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” that outlines expectations for the semester.

—Complete mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, if notified. Select students living in counties across the United States with high infection rates will be contacted by the University on an individual basis in August to complete mandatory testing.

—Self-quarantine for at least 7 days immediately prior to arrival. International students should also quarantine for at least 7 days after their arrival in the U.S. and prior to participating in on-campus activities and/or beginning classes. However, this may not be possible for every international student depending on their planned date of arrival in the U.S., which may mean they need to quarantine at their current location, take precautions (such as mask wearing and social distancing) during travel, and then continue their 7-day quarantine once they arrive in the U.S. Students should plan accordingly.

—Review Penn State and local requirements for masking and social distancing.

Students who are already living on campus or have moved in to off-campus housing should also complete these steps before the start of classes.

To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, students, employees and visitors are required to practice social physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wear face masks/coverings at all times in campus buildings; outdoors when they cannot be physically distant from others; and whenever state or local laws require.

For more information about these pre-arrival requirements, read this story in Penn State News.

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As part of the University’s comprehensive pre-arrival, asymptomatic and symptomatic testing and contact tracing strategy, in August, Penn State will contact 30,000 students, faculty and staff who have been chosen for pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, based solely on the infection rates in the counties where they reside.

Individuals living in coronavirus “hot spots,” or areas with high or rising virus rates, will receive an email notification from the University with a unique test code and step-by-step instructions for an at-home COVID-19 saliva test, to be supervised by the vendor virtually, that will be sent through the mail overnight.

Students are required to complete the test before returning to campus, moving into on-campus residence halls or beginning classes. Test results will be shared with the student and University Health Services.Those who test positive should not travel to campus until they are cleared to come to campus by a health care provider in accordance with CDC guidance.

All students, including those not selected for mandatory pre-arrival testing, must self-quarantine — even if you do not feel sick or have no symptoms — for at least 7 days immediately prior to your arrival on campus, prior to moving into off-campus housing, or prior to starting classes if you are already living off-campus.

For more information about pre-arrival testing and other pre-arrival requirements for students, read this story in Penn State News.

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All students must self-quarantine — even if you do not feel sick or have no symptoms — for at least 7 days immediately prior to your arrival on campus, prior to moving into off-campus housing, or prior to starting classes if you are already living off-campus. In addition, those who are sick, think you have been exposed to COVID or are experiencing symptoms, should continue to isolate and not return to campus until cleared by a medical professional. It is in everyone’s best interest that students arrive after taking precautionary steps, to reduce the likelihood of community exposure. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others and monitor their health.

Additional guidelines for everyone in the Penn State community include:

—If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or is suspicious of COVID-19, do not return to your Penn State campus. See your health care provider and get a COVID-19 test. Only travel to campus after you have been cleared by your health care provider, following CDC guidelines.

—All faculty, staff and students should self-quarantine — even if you do not feel sick or have no symptoms — for at least 7 days immediately prior to your arrival on campus, prior to moving into off-campus housing, or prior to starting classes if you are already living off-campus.

—Take every precaution in your travel to your Penn State campus to prevent introduction of COVID-19 to your campus community. If you are using any form of public transportation, follow all CDC guidelines regarding masking, physical distancing and hygiene practices.

—Individuals who have been recently tested as COVID positive should not travel to campus until they are cleared.

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Latest News

Stay up to date with the latest coronavirus-related news from Penn State.
University prepares for mask, PPE distribution

Every student, faculty and staff member will receive two reusable cloth masks; individuals also must have their own masks when they arrive.

Penn State launches new public health campaign

Penn State has launched "Mask Up or Pack Up," a campaign to remind the community to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Penn State provides updated Compact option for students

Penn State is providing an updated compact option for students, which will be available as a second option to students in the coming days.

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Key information and resources for faculty and staff.