By following University and CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, students can have a direct impact in mitigating the potential for the virus’ spread. Students are asked to take personal responsibility both on and off campus, as agreed to in the Penn State COVID-19 Compact, to help uphold the health of the community by following University guidelines.

Mask wearing and social distancing will be required in class, and faculty members have discretion to make delivery modality adjustments if they have concerns about adherence to University requirements. Faculty members have long had considerable influence over behavior in the classroom, either through informal conversations with students or through grading and class participation polices. Students will be warned first, but faculty have the authority to remove students from class if they refuse to comply. Where students fail to comply despite these efforts, faculty members can refer students to the University’s conduct process through the Office of Student Conduct, and students will be required to participate in a disciplinary process before they can return to the classroom. Faculty have received guidance on enforcement, and they will be supported in these critical measures.

To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues are installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses.

Throughout the pandemic, Penn State has been working with local community leaders and stakeholders, both in the State College area and in neighboring communities across the commonwealth, to partner on strategies to limit the local impacts of COVID-19 through collaborative efforts informed by health and science. To allow in-residence instruction and activities to continue and to uphold the health and safety of campus and local communities, students will be urged to take personal responsibility and follow health guidelines, including wearing masks, adhering to physical distancing practices, washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.

In addition to providing education and support directly to students, fraternities and other student organizations, Penn State is coordinating with local government officials, landlords and local employers to share resources and to encourage students to follow expectations for off-campus behavior. In addition, a new University policy was developed due to these new circumstances, where we must rely on everyone to fulfill their social obligation to keep the community as healthy as possible. Based on the governor’s guidelines advising against large gatherings, and out of respect for the risks to the broader University community, large gatherings are discouraged. Indoor gatherings cannot exceed 25 individuals, and must adhere to masking and social distancing requirements.

Click here to read Penn State’s “Back to State” COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan, which has been submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

At this time, the University is utilizing the Nittany Lion Inn on campus for additional classroom space and single-occupancy housing for on-campus resident students. The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center has reopened with updated health and safety measures.

For questions about current reservations, call 800-233-7505 or email

Following the remote learning period that begins on Jan. 19, in-person classes are expected to resume across all campus locations on Feb. 15, though this date could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state. Feb. 15 was chosen following extensive analysis and scenario planning given worsening virus condition nationally and across the state and predictions of worsening hospitalization rates in the coming weeks — which are expected to increase through January. In addition, a delayed start also will give more time for health care workers to receive the COVID vaccine by mid-February.

Planning for the return to campus will continue to move forward and additional details about Penn State’s plans for the spring will be forthcoming. We recognize the critical importance of a return to on-campus learning and are committed to bringing our students back to our campuses at the right time, and in accordance with state and federal guidance. At this time, the University’s plans include an augmented testing strategy with required testing for all students prior to their arrival, post-arrival testing within the first two weeks of the semester for all students, on-demand testing for students and on-campus employees, and random daily surveillance testing of at least 1.5-2% of the on-campus University population. The University will also continue with strategic screening to identify location-based rises in cases, data monitoring, contact tracing, and quarantine and isolation, which will reflect new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

As part of the overall testing strategy, Penn State received provisionary approval for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification to perform COVID-19 diagnostic testing in the Testing and Surveillance Center (TASC) at University Park beginning this spring, which will support increased testing and a faster turnaround time for students, faculty and staff.

As part of a layered approach to mitigating the spread of coronavirus, Penn State is committed to conducting surveillance testing on all of its campuses. For the spring 2021 semester, the University will be conducting random daily surveillance testing of a least 1.5% to 2% of the on-campus University population. Surveillance will be adapted based on lessons learned and testing resources will pivot as needed based on surveillance data outcomes. The results of that testing is reported on the COVID-19 dashboard and is updated twice per week. The dashboard also incorporates data from symptomatic testing on campus, results of student-athletes tested through Intercollegiate Athletics, and test results from private health care providers that are reported to University Health Services or Occupational Medicine.

Visit this link to review Penn State’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Governor’s guidance

The time-limited mitigation orders that went into effect on Dec. 12, 2020, expired at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2021. With the expiration of the time-limited orders, mitigation efforts will revert to mitigation orders in place on Dec. 11, 2020. Orders issued by Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine on Nov. 23 amend previous COVID-19 orders to allow for adjusted capacity to gathering limits. (Note: The order does not apply to classrooms, per the Pennsylvania Department of Education.)


The guidance below applies to any Penn State-sponsored event, either on or off campus. At this time, events organized or sponsored by organizations external to Penn State are not permitted on campuses. In general, meetings and events should be held remotely if feasible.

Student organizations

Student organizations wishing to hold an event or meeting should consult with the Office of Student Activities (University Park) or the chancellor’s office (Commonwealth Campuses) regarding student meeting/event policies and the procedures for requesting to hold a meeting or event.

Indoor meetings and events

Meetings and events of 10 or fewer participants are permitted with no prior permission required, with masks required and taking into account the maximum occupancy of the space that allows for at least six feet of distance between participants. Requests to hold indoor meetings or events of more than 10 participants, following the Governor’s order, Section 9, “Requirements for Events and Gatherings” related to room occupancy, must be submitted for approval to unit executives (see “Approval Process” below).

Outdoor meetings and events

Outdoor meetings of 10 or fewer participants are permitted with no prior permission required, with masks required and taking into account the maximum occupancy of the space that allows for at least six feet of distance between participants. Requests for outdoor meetings of more than 10 participants, following the Governor’s order, Section 9, “Requirements for Events and Gatherings,” related to Maximum Occupancy, must be submitted for approval to unit executives (see “Approval Process” below).

Approval process

Meeting/event organizers requesting permission for an indoor or outdoor meeting or event of more than 10 participants, must:

— Explain how the proposed event is in alignment with the mission of the University.

— Provide justification as to why the meeting or event cannot take place virtually or in a hybrid format (some participants in person and others virtually).

— Provide the total number of individuals attending the meeting or event, which must include the employees working the event.

— Include a plan that outlines how the organizers will meet the state of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 regulations. Masks and other required PPE must be worn both indoors and outdoors and plans for abiding by social distancing guidelines must be included.

— If the event is on campus, work with the Office of Physical Plant to determine the room capacity that allows for social distancing.

— Keep a list of all attendees, the locations from which non-employees are traveling, and their telephone numbers for contact purposes.

— Check with the unit’s HRSP (human resources strategic partner) to determine whether employees at the meeting should be entered into the Return to Work database.

— Provide evidence that the meeting organizers have worked with relevant campus leadership to ensure that the gathering is in compliance with local ordinances pertaining to COVID-19.

— Attendees who are not employees or students are required to sign an Acknowledgment of Risk document when feasible, in advance of their arrival if possible. If the unit wishes to make changes to this document other than to add the unit name, it should contact the Office of General Counsel.

Attention to COVID rates in other areas

Meetings that include participants from states with high levels of COVID-19 should only be permitted if there are special circumstances and with unit executive approval. All Penn State employees must follow existing travel guidance. All meeting and event attendees from outside of Pennsylvania must follow Pennsylvania’s “COVID-19 Information for Travelers” guidance.

Unit executives should elevate meeting/event requests to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs if there is uncertainty about whether the meeting/event should be approved.