Contact Tracing

Contact tracing helps keep you, your friends and family and our communities as safe as possible by slowing the spread of COVID-19, alerting those who may have been exposed to the disease and helping them determine next steps. If Penn State or Department of Health contact tracers reach out to you, it’s important to engage with them and provide information about where you have been and with whom you have been in contact. Your protected health information will be kept confidential.

Visit the Student Affairs website for more information on student contact tracing and reporting positive third-party test results.

Information on how faculty can assist with contact tracing efforts is available here.

Penn State contact tracing overview

To support the health and well-being of the University community, 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.

Contact tracing is directed by the COVID-19 Operations Control Center and operated centrally by 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 and then reaching out to their close contacts.

Define your pod to help contact tracing and minimize the spread of COVID-19. A small, defined pod can help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and make the contact tracing process simpler and more effective.

Definition of a ‘close contact’

In line with CDC guidelines on close contacts, the University defines a close contact as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative time of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period while that individual may have been infectious. The infectious period begins 48 hours before the person began experiencing symptoms (or 48 hours before the test date for asymptomatic individuals) until the time the individual was isolated.

What to expect from the contact tracing process

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

  • Step 1: Through its COVID-19 testing and self-reported positive test results, Penn State will identify individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or presumed positive.

  • Step 2: Case investigators will initiate contact with positive or presumed positive students and employees, calling from the 814 area code for all campus locations except for Penn State Hershey. Please answer calls when they are received.

  • 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 quarantine to provide support and will notify faculty and instructors if a student is not permitted to attend class.

Self-reporting a suspected close contact

To limit community spread and transmission of COVID-19, any student who suspects or has confirmed that they are a close contact of an infected individual must self-quarantine, and is strongly encouraged to self-report by filling out Penn State's contact tracing referral form, or by calling Penn State Contact Tracing at 814-863-8800. Penn State Contact Tracing will review the form and contact the student.

If a student submits the form and is determined to have met the standard for a close contact, the student will be provided quarantine support and guidance and their in-person instructors will be notified in accordance with standard processes.

When and how to report positive test results

If you receive a positive result from a test administered by the University or one of its COVID-19 testing vendors, no further action is necessary and contact tracing will commence automatically.

If you receive a positive test result from a test administered by a provider outside of the University, there are steps you must take to initiate the University’s contact tracing process.

Reporting results for students

Students can notify the University of a third-party positive test result by submitting test results through myUHS.

To upload your positive COVID test result:

1. Visit myUHS and log in using your Penn State credentials.
2. Select “I would like to report to University Health Services the result of a COVID-19 test.”
3. Initiate a secure message and attach your result as an image file (.jpg, .png, .bmp, .gif, .tif).

Reporting results for employees

Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 should continue to stay home from work and contact their supervisor regarding taking time off or working remotely. Faculty and staff with a positive test result also should call Occupational Medicine at 814-865-8612, then email Occupational Medicine at with the following information:

  • First & Last Name

  • Penn State 9-Digit Number

  • Date symptoms began

  • Date employee tested positive for COVID-19

  • Date of the first day work was missed

  • Y/N – Are you able to work remotely?

Occupational Medicine will respond back to your email and include your immediate supervisor/manager, and Absence Management on the employee’s status.

You may also wish to consult this chart if you feel ill, test positive, or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Contact tracing

Employees can find detailed information and guidance on the Health Guidelines, Contact Tracing, and Quarantine and Isolation pages.

Students can find detailed information and guidance on the Health Guidelines, Contact Tracing, and Quarantine and Isolation pages.

Resources For

Students and families


Faculty and staff