What about the dining commons? How will students get their meals? How can you prevent the spread in the dining commons?
It is Penn State’s goal to make on-campus dining as comfortable and convenient as possible while maintaining the safety of our students and visitors.
Here are the steps we’re taking to meet those goals:
a. Capacity in campus dining facilities is limited, with seating and tables removed to promote physical distancing, in accordance with governmental mandates and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Masking and social distancing guidelines must be observed, along with posted occupancy restrictions. Eating is only permitted in posted, designated areas and in a student's residence hall room.
b. Mobile ordering and carryout options have been expanded to reduce patron wait times.
c. To enhance safety, the dining commons are not offering self-serve options, and menu selections have been streamlined to increase speed of service.
d. In addition, there is extensive and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and restroom spaces are cleaned at least two times each day; these restrooms have been configured to encourage distancing among users.
What does the on-campus dining experience look like this fall?
Although in-person dining is available, it is limited during the fall semester, with tables physically distanced and chairs removed in order to promote a safer eating environment for diners and workers in accordance with federal, state and local health and safety guidelines. Penn State also is offering additional seating outdoors at the University Park campus and other campuses while the weather allows.
Masking and social distancing guidelines must be observed, along with posted occupancy restrictions. Eating is only permitted in posted, designated areas and in a student's residence hall room.
Residential Dining has put in place enhanced protocols including — but not limited to — the use of masks by all guests and staff; increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces and restrooms using an EPA-approved disinfectant; additional hand sanitizer stations; installation of Plexiglas in key areas; elimination of self-service options (such as beverages, condiments, etc.); and self-swipe card payments. All items will be served in disposable containers with pre-packaged silverware, condiments and beverages.
Students actually have more choices and more service styles available than have been offered in previous years. This includes a new mobile ordering and pickup option, and Scan N’ Go convenience store shopping and payment at select locations.
Additional information on Residential Dining’s plans for fall can be found here.
Is Penn State testing students before they leave for home in November?
To help prevent virus transmission outside of Penn State’s campus communities as students return home, the University is offering free voluntary COVID-19 testing for students prior to leaving campus. Penn State is partnering with Vault Health for the departure testing, which will be conducted either in person at predetermined testing sites on certain campuses or via self-administered kits.
More information is available in this Penn State News story.
Why is spring break cancelled?
To support the health and safety of the University and surrounding communities, spring break will not take place, and classes will be held, to reduce travel and limit the possible spread of the virus into our campus communities and beyond. During the semester, students should avoid travel and not invite visitors to campus or to stay with them in off-campus housing.
I’m a student. Can I receive walk-up testing on campus?
Penn State is offering on-demand, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students at University Park who wish to be tested.
For students at University Park who are asymptomatic of COVID-19 but want to be tested because of possible virus exposure or other reasons, walk-up testing is available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on the main concourse of Pegula Ice Arena as of Oct. 9. Registration is not required, but students will need to bring their Penn State ID and smartphone and refrain from eating, drinking, chewing or smoking 30 minutes before arriving for their tests. Testing is free. This walk-up testing is voluntary and does not replace mandatory surveillance testing. Individuals who visit Pegula Ice Arena for walk-up testing must enter through Gate A – the main entry at the corner of Curtin Road and University Drive.
University Park students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not visit the walk-up site and instead seek testing at University Health Services by scheduling an appointment online through myUHS or by calling UHS at 814-863-0774.
At the Commonwealth Campuses, if a student has COVID-19 symptoms or is concerned about possible virus exposure, they should contact their on-campus health center or the 24/7 nurse advice line at 814-863-4463. There is currently no walk-up testing at any of the Commonwealth Campuses on a regular basis, but the University continues to monitor campus and community conditions and may add this testing process at a future date.
How did the University make decisions about spring semester?
The University’s top priority for spring planning, as it was for fall, is the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and local community members. A working group with more than 20 members from across the University considered a variety of options for spring to build on strategies from the fall, while considering the need to adapt quickly and make changes on a campus-by-campus basis considering ongoing uncertainties due to the pandemic. Following the exploration of nine scenarios, University leadership finalized a spring plan grounded in continuing to meet or exceed health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Department of Education, as well as providing flexibility to students to help them meet their academic goals and continue their academic progress. The selected spring semester plan also offers instructors choice in how classes are delivered and maximizes the safe use of facilities to support in-person modes of instruction and to give students access to spaces to connect to remote learning. The University is prepared to be flexible and to make potential changes, if needed, including shifting to a remote learning, based on a variety of health and safety factors and continuous monitoring of the virus.
Does the University have a back-up plan for spring?
Since the onset of the pandemic, Penn State experts in epidemiology, infectious diseases and public health have continued to track current trends and monitor local, state and national disease data. The University is working closely with officials from the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health, as well as local public and private organizations, to prepare for spring and to carefully monitor the prevalence of coronavirus on our campuses and in our local communities. The University has in place required mask wearing and physical distancing requirements, as well as a random surveillance testing program to detect asymptomatic infected individuals and take proactive steps to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Based on these protocols, the guidance from state and national officials, and in consultation with faculty and other experts the University is prepared to adjust its approach for spring given a multitude of factors, including a severe flu season, and will be ready to make changes and shift to remote learning if necessary.
Will we still need to follow the same health and safety protocols on campus this spring?
To continue on-campus learning, work and other activities in the spring, it’s vital that students, faculty and staff at all campuses and in adjacent communities do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to wear face masks, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings in line with public health guidelines. This spring, students, employees and visitors will be required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks at all times in campus buildings; outdoors when they cannot be physically distant from others; and whenever state or local laws require. The University also requires students and most employees to participate in random surveillance testing of around 1% of a campus population daily in order to detect, track, mitigate and limit the spread of COVID-19.
What testing will be available for students who remain on campuses past Nov. 20, especially during the week of Thanksgiving?
The University’s testing protocols for students and employees, which include walk-up testing and random surveillance testing, will continue through Nov. 20. Due to the holiday, there will be no surveillance or walk-up testing from Nov. 21-29. However, the University will be prepared to support students with health services for those who remain on campuses over the Thanksgiving week. More specifics for each campus will follow.
All random surveillance testing will resume on campuses on Nov. 30 and continue through the remainder of the fall semester for employees working on site and students who may continue to live on or near Penn State campuses.
Will Penn State continue to offer quarantine and isolation for students who test positive and need to stay past Nov. 20?
Yes. Penn State’s quarantine and isolation space at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses will continue to be available after Nov. 20 for students who need to quarantine or isolate over the Thanksgiving break or after courses resume remotely on Nov. 30.
Students who are identified as needing to isolate or quarantine on or before Nov. 20 are expected to complete their isolation or quarantine period on campus or in another suitable single occupancy space off campus before they leave for Thanksgiving break and remote learning.
What can students expect if they need to receive care from University Health Services this fall? What safety precautions are in place at the Student Health Center?
University Health Services continues to take enhanced precautions and has implemented additional guidelines for the fall semester to help protect the health and safety of the Penn State campus community.
UHS has increased cleaning and safety measures inside the Student Health Center and is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. This includes:
— Disinfecting surfaces frequently.
— Maintaining physical distance.
— Wearing gloves and masks.
— Disinfecting all rooms, regardless if the visit was COVID-19 related or not.
— Implementing additional cleaning in negative pressure rooms.
— Using hand sanitizer or washing hands prior to and after seeing each patient.
— Assessing employee temperatures before they enter the Student Health Center.
UHS will only allow those with a scheduled in-person appointment inside the Student Health Center. Anyone who enters the Student Health Center will have their temperature taken, symptoms assessed, and must wear a mask. Plexiglass barriers also have been installed for added protection.
All patients will enter the Student Health Center through the front door, except those with COVID-19 concerns. Students who are being seen for COVID-19 will come through a different door and have a designated elevator to use, which will be communicated when the appointment is scheduled.
In addition, UHS has added a negative pressure suite, which includes nine additional negative pressure rooms, for 11 negative pressure rooms in total. These are single-occupancy patient-care rooms that use negative air pressure to prevent airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19 from escaping the room and infecting others. This suite will be dedicated to seeing patients in-house that require a higher level of care for COVID-19.
Students who wish to schedule a medical appointment with UHS, including those with COVID-19 concerns, should call 814-863-0774 or visit myUHS online. Any patients who access care will be assessed for COVID-19 symptoms. Students can still be seen for routine appointments such as women’s and men’s health, LGBTQ health, physical therapy and more. Students will be triaged based on their concerns, symptoms and visit type, and may be seen via telemedicine or asked to come to the Student Health Center. COVID-19 concerns may be addressed via telemedicine, unless in-person care is needed. Students should check with their insurance carrier in advance to determine if telemedicine visits are covered under their insurance plan.
Students who need to have lab tests completed, either ordered by a UHS clinician or an outside clinician, can schedule a lab appointment through myUHS.
Any nonclinical appointments that need to be scheduled with Student Health Insurance, Health Information Management, or Finance and Billing can be done by calling the specific department. Soon, students will be able to schedule an appointment through myUHS for all departments. These nonmedical appointments will be accomplished through Zoom or by phone.
For additional information about available UHS services and enhanced health precautions, read this Penn State News story.
Will students be required to get a flu vaccine this year? Can I get a flu vaccination on campus?
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 flu 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.
How do I know if I am required to participate in the University’s asymptomatic surveillance testing program?
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. Three new COVID-19 surveillance testing sites will be open for Penn State employees and students on the University Park campus starting Oct. 7. These indoor locations replace previous University Park campus testing locations and expand services to include employee-only hours.
Who is able to be tested via Penn State’s on-demand testing and random screening programs?
At University Park, University Health Services provides appointment-based, “on-demand” testing for students who have COVID-19-related symptoms. If a student is symptomatic, they should seek testing at University Health Services by scheduling an appointment online through myUHS or by calling UHS at 814-863-0774.
For University Park students who are asymptomatic but self-identify as having COVID-19 exposure or want to be tested for other reasons, a voluntary walk-up testing site is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on the main concourse of Pegula Ice Arena. 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 for directions on how to obtain a test kit.
Penn State Commonwealth Campuses also are offering voluntary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for on-campus employees during the month of October through Vault Health. More information about the testing process for Commonwealth Campus employees is available in this Penn State News article.
Do we need to wear masks and maintain social distancing when we return to campus? Should masks be worn outside?
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between another person, are critical components in helping to maintain the health and safety of the entire campus community. Students, employees and visitors are required to practice physical distancing 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.
To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them. In addition, distance markers, directional arrows, signs and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations, which also will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind. Tables, chairs and lounge furniture will be rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations, and posting of maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas will become the norm, in accordance with the governor’s higher education guidance.
If I am quarantining and I receive a negative test result, can I leave quarantine early?
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.
What consequences will students experience if they violate COVID-19-related expectations or laws in the residence halls?
Violations of the University’s expectations or local or state laws related to COVID-19 will typically result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC). OSC will enact its conduct process, and students who are determined to be responsible for a violation will be subject to sanctions up to and including loss of housing or separation from the University. It is important to note that any gathering exceeding residence hall restrictions (typically only two guests allowed per room) will be considered to be a serious violation and will likely result in a loss of housing, at minimum. Students should also be aware that guests from other residence halls are not permitted, and they may not visit other residence halls. In addition, as stated previously, visitors from other areas, universities, regions, etc. also are not permitted in the residence halls. This includes parents and family members. Violations of these expectations will be considered a serious violation.
What consequences will students experience if they violate COVID-19-related expectations or laws off campus?
Violations of the University’s expectations or local or state laws related to COVID-19 will typically result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC). OSC will enact its conduct process, and students who are determined to be responsible for a violation will be subject to sanctions, up to and including separation from the University. It is important to note that any large gathering in violation of local ordinances will be considered a serious violation and will likely result in a suspension.
What is the status of in-person meetings, events, youth programs and camps, and other gatherings?
An order issued by Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine on July 15 prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 25 and outdoor gatherings of more than 250. (Note: The order prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than 25 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.
Indoor meetings and events
Meetings and events of 10 or fewer participants are permitted with no prior permission required. All participants must wear masks and meeting/event organizers must take into account the maximum occupancy of the space that allows for at least six feet of distance between participants. Requests to hold indoor meetings and events of between 11 and 25 participants must be submitted for approval to unit executives (see “Approval Process” below). No indoor meetings or events of more than 25 participants are permitted.
Outdoor meetings and events
Outdoor meetings of 10 or fewer participants are permitted with no prior permission required, taking into account the maximum occupancy of the space that allows for at least six feet of distance between participants. Masks are required when six feet of distance between participants cannot be maintained. Requests for outdoor meetings of between 11 and 250 participants must be submitted for approval to unit executives (see “Approval Process” below. No outdoor meetings or events of more than 250 participants are permitted.
Meeting/event organizers requesting permission for an indoor meeting of between 11 and 25 participants, or an outdoor meeting or event of between 11 and 250 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 regulations. Masks and other required PPE must be worn if the event is indoors and plans for abiding by social distancing guidelines must be included;
—Provide evidence that employees requesting to attend the meeting or event have been approved via the Return to Work process. A request must be made to return employees to the workplace at https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/;
—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 ‘return to work’ approval status of employees, the locations from which non-employees are traveling, and their telephone numbers for contact purposes.
Events should be scheduled with the full understanding that if the county in which the campus is located moves to the Yellow or Red phase or if state guidance otherwise changes, the guidelines for the county must be followed and the event may need to be cancelled.
Campuses whose counties are in the Yellow or Red Phase
At campuses whose counties are in the Yellow or Red phase, no meetings or events of any kind with more than 10 attendees may be scheduled. For essential indoor events of between 11 and 25, or outdoor events of between 11 and 250, at campuses whose counties are in the Yellow or Red phase, approval to hold the event must be sought from Executive Vice President and Provost, Nicholas P. Jones, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests must include a description of how social distancing will be maintained at the event.
Attention to COVID rates in other areas
Meetings that require travel between campuses that are in the Yellow or Red phase, or where participants are from states where cases of COVID-19 are rising, should only be permitted if there are special circumstances and with unit executive approval. All Penn State employees must follow existing travel 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.
What does the University’s contact tracing plan entail?
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.
Is there a plan in case the virus flares up again? What would be the trigger for having students vacate campuses again and move from in-person instruction to remote delivery only?
Penn State is prepared to be nimble and responsive based on the latest information, monitoring and evolving virus infection rates. The University will employ 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, state and national levels to see if a pattern is emerging so leaders can act accordingly.
All classes that are planned to have in-person meetings will have contingency plans for reverting to remote instruction modalities if health circumstances require ending in-person learning earlier than Nov. 20. All future decisions will be based on the best available public-health information, in the interest of the safety and well-being of Penn State students, faculty and staff.
A number of factors may lead to additional distancing measures or adjustments to campus-based residential course delivery. These factors include changes in addition to the virus caseload of a campus or region such as community spread, quarantine and isolation capacity, a county’s status under the governor’s red-yellow-green guidelines, the capacity of the local health care system, community compliance with health and safety protocols, and additional risks such as the onset of an early virulent flu season. Faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health are continuously monitoring county, state and local disease data, which will allow the University to respond to any changes in the pandemic that would require proactive steps to mitigate and manage any potential outbreak. Decisions about potential changes will be made on a campus-by-campus basis, taking into consideration guidance from public health officials.
As Penn State planned for a return to campus and work, University leaders and the University's 16 coronavirus task groups developed numerous contingency strategies to support health and safety, including a number of “off and on ramp” scenarios that will allow Penn State to quickly respond and continue its teaching and learning mission if changes are needed during the semester.
These scenarios focus on health and safety, flexibility to change course as circumstances require, continuing to provide critical services, and following local and state COVID guidance and requirements. Examples of possible off-ramps include suspending use of specific buildings and spaces, quarantining a program or cohort, suspending or curtailing some in-person programs, quarantining residents of a specific hall, pausing in-person classes for a defined period, pausing programs and reducing operations at a specific campus, and transitioning all programs and classes at a campus to remote delivery. These scenarios include one in which Penn State must send students home from a campus and revert to remote learning. If our public health advisers become concerned that it is no longer safe for students and employees to be on our campuses, we are prepared to quickly take action and change course.
Can you describe the measures Penn State is taking with local communities to prevent the spread of the virus? For example, what is the University doing to minimize off-campus large gatherings?
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.
I am a student. How much should I limit socialization with others?
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.
At University Park, has the University had any discussions with CATA about safety plans for the Blue and White Loops, as well as other bus lines in the community, when students return to campus?
The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) announced operational plans for the fall 2020 semester on July 24 that will impact both campus and community transit service beginning Saturday, Aug. 22.
Service changes that will be in effect throughout the fall semester include:
—No Blue Loop or White Loop campus transit service.
—No Sunday transit services.
—All CATA services will begin at 6 a.m. and end no later than 12:30 a.m. each day, with reduced service between 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
While Blue Loop and White Loop campus service will not be available, CATA will continue to operate the Red Link and Green Link campus routes, with additional service to be added to the Green Link. Penn State Transportation Services will also continue to operate its two Campus Shuttle routes, though with reduced capacity.
In the interest of health and safety, Penn State and CATA made a joint decision not to run the Blue and White Loops this fall. The Blue Loop and White Loop are University-contracted services, and Penn State instead made those buses and drivers available to CATA for other service routes in the community that transport students, faculty and staff to and from campus. By redirecting these resources to peak demand periods for these routes, CATA expects to reduce the average number of riders per vehicle to help mitigate COVID-19 risk associated with longer wait periods in densely populated areas and confined spaces.
CATA’s passenger protocols
CATA, however, will not be specifically restricting the number of riders on each vehicle but will require all passengers to wear a face covering while waiting for or riding on CATA services, and to practice social distancing when and where possible, as part of its fall 2020 passenger protocols. CATA has also implemented a daily schedule of disinfecting all vehicles through rigorous industrial electrostatic cleaning and sanitation. Individuals will need to determine if use of CATA services during the COVID-19 pandemic is right for them, but it is strongly encouraged that use be limited to essential trips. Students, faculty and staff living closer to campus are encouraged to walk or bike where possible.
To provide the best opportunity for a more socially distanced riding experience, riders are encouraged to plan trips in advance and to ride during off-peak times. Real-time bus locations and arrival predictions are available through the MyStop, TransLoc or Penn State Go mobile apps.
Full details on CATA’s fall 2020 operational plans and passenger protocols can be found at the CATA website. For questions related to CATA service, call 814-238-2282 or email email@example.com. CATA is a joint municipal authority that serves the six Centre Region municipalities, as well as Bellefonte Borough and Spring and Benner townships.
What is the program for the University maintaining and sanitizing all buildings (residence halls, office buildings, classrooms, etc.)?
To support the health and well-being of students and employees, there will be extensive, daily cleaning of high-touch surface areas, classrooms, labs, offices, restrooms and other common spaces across the University. Desks, podiums, conference tables, interior doorknobs, interior doors, push plates, handrails, light switches and other identified high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected at an appropriate frequency. The University has procured several thousand hand-sanitizer stations, which have been placed in high-traffic areas, and hand sanitizer and/or cleaning wipes will be available for each classroom and classroom building. Enhanced cleaning practices also will be implemented for these spaces. At this link, you can read more about the steps being taken by Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant to reduce the potential for spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, offices, restrooms and other indoor areas.
In addition, units will develop cleaning protocols and schedules to disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared equipment within their areas and offices. Guidance is available on the Environmental Health and Safety website. As part of these efforts, employees should avoid sharing tools and equipment as much as possible and supervisors should stagger shifts, if possible, for high-use shared equipment and establish disinfection protocols between uses. Individual employees also will be responsible for helping to maintain a clean work environment for themselves and others by cleaning and disinfecting desks, equipment, and materials before and after use.
When we come back to campus, what do we need to do to be prepared?
The health and well-being of the Penn State community is the University’s first priority as we welcome the community back to our campuses. Significant prevention and public health procedures have been implemented to help maintain the health and safety of our students, employees and local communities. 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.
Specific to public health, as part of a “new normal” for returning to campus, all students, faculty and staff members will be expected to take personal actions to help protect themselves and others on campus — the success of the University’s plans will be largely dependent on everyone doing their part. While on campus, students, employees and visitors are required to wear face masks or coverings, practice social distancing, practice hand hygiene by frequently washing and sanitizing, follow protocols for covering coughs and sneezes, stay home if sick, and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. The University will employ enhanced cleaning and sanitation, hygiene stations, plexiglass, signage and various other measures to provide for physical distancing and other health and safety needs.
Additional guidance for members of the University will continue to be provided at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/, which will be updated regularly with the latest information and guidance as we all work together toward a safe return.
Since March, more than 250 individuals serving on 16 task groups and subcommittees have prepared for a coordinated return to on-campus working, learning and living for students and employees across each of the University’s campuses. Penn State has taken a robust public health and science-based approach to inform how it is managing social distancing, limiting the size of events, and providing learning environments that are as safe as reasonably possible. Penn State will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities that have been outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for returning students and employees to campus.
University leadership and the task groups have worked with governance and advisory bodies, including the University Faculty Senate and the University Staff Advisory Council, to work through the details of course delivery, classroom and workplace safety, and other aspects of the return to campus.
What is the difference between isolation and quarantine and why are there different time requirements?
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.
— Since symptoms typically develop between two 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.
— 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 health care 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.
What was the University’s approach to its pre-arrival testing strategy?
On June 2, the University charged a Health Resources Task Group to develop options and recommendations for testing and contact tracing that could minimize the risk of COVID-19 disease transmission and enable a return to working and learning on campuses. A seven-person steering committee, with support from 30 individuals from University Park, the College of Medicine, and the Commonwealth campuses, submitted a report on July 2, which informed the sample testing and contact tracing strategy adopted by the University. The report is accessible via this link.
There has been interest in the University’s simulation modeling that informed its pre-arrival testing strategy. The University based its approach on modeling that showed that if the number of students returning to campus infectious was less than 50, there was a high likelihood of avoiding an outbreak that would exceed local hospital capacity. The report provides greater detail. The pre-arrival process is complete. The following analysis suggests the number of potentially infectious students returning to University Park to start the semester would have been less than or equal to 38.
Pre-arrival testing estimation:
Following initial risk modeling we determined the likelihood of an outbreak in the community surrounding the University Park campus that would exceed the inpatient capacity at Mount Nittany Medical Center prior to the semester break in November was highly sensitive to the initial number of infectious students returning to campus as the start of the semester. Specifically, stochastic model situations suggested that if the number of students returning to campus infectious was less than 50, there was a high likelihood that such an outbreak could be avoided through a combination of preventive actions (masking and distancing), routine asymptomatic screening of 1% of the campus population each day, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine.
A review by our testing task force established that the time required to conduct pre-arrival testing for all Penn State students would render the strategy inviable. In order to complete testing within a short time window, as close to student return as possible, we established a plan to test a subset of returning students. To maximize the impact per test conducted, we modeled the expected prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection at the county level across the U.S. To estimate the total prevalence in each U.S. county we counted all reported COVID cases assuming that 1 in 10 infections are detected and reported. We assumed that the probability that a student returning to campus from any U.S. county was infectious was equal to the estimated prevalence in their home county (e.g. a student is a randomly chosen individual from the county) [NOTE: the methods we used are analogous to those here https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu, which have been widely used elsewhere and covered in the media]. Thus, tests allocated to counties with the highest estimated prevalence would have the highest probability of preventing an infectious student returning to campus. Each test allocated reduced the expected number of returning infectious students by a value equal to the county prevalence (which itself was considerably less than 1). Thus, we prioritized the allocation of tests to those U.S. counties with the highest estimated prevalence to maximize the reduction in infectious students returning to campuses.
If no pre-arrival testing were done, we estimated that the number of students returning infectious to the University Park campus would be approximately 300. Thus, for University Park, we allocated pre-arrival tests such that the expected number of infectious students returning to campus was less than 50. After targeted allocation of tests to students that were serving as RAs or in other high contact roles during move-in and orientation, we expected that number of potentially infectious students returning to the University Park campus would be less than or equal to 38; thus, reducing the expected number of infectious students returning by 87%.
For the smaller Commonwealth Campuses, we set a lower target threshold of 10 infectious students returning. Many of the smaller Commonwealth Campuses had a total expected number of infectious returning students less than 10 in the absence of any pre-arrival testing. In this case we allocated pre-arrival testing proportional to campus size to guarantee pre-arrival testing at all campuses.
As test results were returned, we were able to evaluate whether or not our predicted county-level prevalence was consistent with the observed prevalence among our tested students. This analysis revealed that students residing in high prevalence counties outside of Pennsylvania were positive at rates lower than we predicted. The rate of positive students residing in high prevalence counties within Pennsylvania was strongly correlated with our estimates — counties that we prioritized as high-risk had higher proportions of infected students. However, we found that our estimates had under-estimated the expected number of infected students in these counties. Because we invited all students in the high prevalence counties to be tested, our strategy was robust to this underestimation; that is, by testing 100% of students in a county we expected to catch all infected students whether the number was 10 or 15.
Operational delays in test results (some due to unforeseen events, such as a tropical storm causing transport delays) meant that less than 100% of invited students were tested prior to campus return. Using our analysis of observed COVID prevalence among the tests that had been returned, we were able to prioritize subsequent testing of returning students through additional efforts, including on-campus testing some students at the time of arrival. The very large number of tests done at the University Park campus also allowed us to identify high-risk Pennsylvania counties based on our testing results, rather than our a priori model, and allocate additional pre-arrival tests to students returning to Commonwealth Campuses from these counties.
Health Resources Task Group Membership:
Kevin Black, MD (Co-Lead)
Interim Dean, Penn State College of Medicine
Steve Tracey (Co-Lead)
Smeal College of Business
Professor of Practice, Supply-Chain and Information Systems (SC&IS)
Executive Director, Center for Supply Chain Research
Executive Director, Penn State Executive Programs
Mark A. Bates
Medical Director for Penn State’s Occupational Medicine Program
Division of the Office of Human Resources
Lauren Bechtel (admin. support)
Program Director, Smeal College of Business
Center for Supply Chain Research
Associate General Counsel
Office of the President
David M. Callejo Pérez
Associate Vice President and Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Programs
Director of Environmental Health and Safety
Director Procurement Services
Cara Exten, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing
Associate Professor of Biology
Associate Vice President for HR Operations
Melissa George, MD
Interim Chair Department of Pathology, College of Medicine
Vice President for Administration
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
Associate Dean for Medical Innovation Professor of Practice, Entrepreneurship
Penn State College of Medicine
Nirmal Joshi, MD
System Chief Medical Officer
Mount Nittany Health
Labor Relations Strategist
Cindy Lynch (admin. support)
Chief of Staff for Interim Dean, Penn State College of Medicine
Stanley Martin, MD
Infectious Diseases, Geisinger
Chancellor, Penn State Harrisburg
Robin Ella Oliver-Veronesi, MD, CPE
Senior Director of University Health Services
Catharine Paules, MD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases
Penn State College of Medicine
Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Nick (Vittal) Prabhu
Charles and Enid Schneider Faculty Chair Service Enterprise Engineering
Director, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences
Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and Entomology; Eberly Professor of Biotechnology
Research Associate and Teaching Professor, Smeal College of Business
Center for Supply Chain Research
Assistant Vice President of Risk Management and University Risk Officer
Wayne Sebastianelli, MD
Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, Penn State College of Medicine
State College Regional Medical Campus
Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Administration
Associate Vice President, Enterprise Applications Penn State Information Technology
Director of State Relations
Office of Government and Community Relations
Acting Chief Information Security Officer Office of Information Security
Director of Nursing, Assistant Clinical Director of University Health Services
Kelly A. Wolgast
DNP, RN, FACHE, FAAN COL (R), US Army
Director of COVID-19 Operations Control Center
Associate Teaching Professor, College of Nursing
Assistant Dean for Outreach and Professional Development, College of Nursing
Professor, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering PI & Site Director: NSF Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT)
Affiliate Faculty: Bioengineering, Institute of Cyberscience, CIMP-3D
What is the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” and do I have to sign it?
In preparation for the semester, students were required to read and sign the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” in LionPATH to acknowledge their responsibility and to agree to follow the rules outlined in the compact, as well as other directives from the University, to protect campus and local communities from the risks posed by COVID-19.
The agreement covers a variety of critical topics and health and safety expectations and requirements, including agreeing to participate in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing throughout the semester, isolate or quarantine if needed, wear face masks and social distance on campus, adhere to travel policies, get a flu vaccination when available, and more. The compact also covers the potential consequences for failing to abide by the compact in ways that risk others’ health and safety, such as through the student conduct process. Students who are not able to sustain these commitments throughout the semester may forfeit their ability to continue with on-campus activities, classes and living.
For more information about the compact, additional FAQs are available on the Student Affairs website.
What will happen if/when students test positive?
Any student who feels sick or who has symptoms, or has been exposed to COVID-19, should stay home and seek the advice of a medical professional as appropriate. Students who test positive for the virus will need to isolate for at least 10 days since symptom onset must have an improvement in symptoms and be fever free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication before returning to class. Students who test positive outside of a University testing process should notify Contact Tracing and Student Support Services by completing this form.
As part of the University's contact tracing process, individuals who test positive will be interviewed to identify people with whom they had close contact (less than six feet of distance for 10 minutes or longer within two to four days before the onset of symptoms). These close contacts will be alerted, asked to quarantine for 14 days, and asked to be tested immediately.
Students who must isolate will receive detailed instructions, and they will receive check-ins regarding their health. The University will work closely with these students to see that they continue to make academic progress, and to assist with any other needs that may arise.
Additional information on the isolation and quarantine process can be found in this FAQ.
What steps is the Office of Physical Plant taking to reduce the potential for spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, offices, restrooms and other indoor areas?
Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) has been gearing up for months for the return to campus by carefully evaluating all building mechanical and life safety systems to determine that they are fully functional and ready for occupancy, meeting or exceeding all of the building systems requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and undertaking intensive corrective and preventive maintenance for every building at every campus. Learn more about OPPs procedures and plans here.
What is the “mask up or pack up” campaign?
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.
Are masks with valves acceptable? What about bandanas or gaiters?
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.
Multi-layer cloth masks or procedure masks are the preferred type of face covering. There is evidence that single-layer face coverings, including many types of neck gaiters, are not as effective in stopping respiratory droplets as multi-layer face coverings. At this time, it is recommended that all faculty, staff and students wear a multi-layer mask or procedure mask. All face coverings must cover the nose and chin.
Guidelines surrounding the use of cloth masks are available on the EHS website and also on the University’s virus information website. 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 them an extra mask and remind the individual to not wear a mask with a valve in the future.
Will Penn State be testing students and employees for coronavirus?
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 has put in place a robust COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program consisting 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.
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.
How will I be contacted if I am identified during the contact tracing process?
When a student or employee is identified as being positive for COVID-19, Penn State nursing staff will reach out to them to provide support and isolation guidance and to collect information about that person’s close contacts. A Penn State contact tracer will then reach out to students and employees identified as close contacts to gain additional information and provide directions and health precautions. As part the University’s partnership with the Pennsylvanyia Department of Health, a contact tracer from the state also will reach out to Penn State students and employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 to identify close contacts who are not affiliated with the University; the state will follow up with those close contacts.
In accordance with state guidance, close contacts are defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 10 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick (or when they test positive, if asymptomatic) until the time the patient was isolated.
More detailed information about contact tracing may be found in this Penn State News story.
How does Gov. Wolf’s July 15 order impact the University? In particular, how does restricting indoor gatherings to fewer than 25 individuals affect Penn State’s return-to-campus plans?
The University is working with the Wolf Administration on its Back to State plans and has confirmed with the Pennsylvania Department of Education that the order limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 25 people does not apply to classrooms. Other indoor gatherings, however, cannot exceed 25 individuals and must adhere to masking and social distancing requirements. The University will continue to work closely with the Wolf Administration on its return-to-campus plans and is prepared to shift quickly as the pandemic and resulting orders and guidelines evolve, all with a focus on the health and safety of Penn State campuses and surrounding communities
All schools in Pennsylvania, including universities, continue to be subject to guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which are designed to aid in safely resuming in-person instruction. These guidelines allow for larger groups in classrooms as long as face masking and social distancing are in place. The University has committed to meeting and, where possible, exceeding the Wolf Administration’s guidelines.
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.
How does Penn State plan to manage the risk of inviting students back to campuses who could potentially spread COVID-19?
Maintaining the health and safety of the campus and local communities is the top priority driving Penn State’s decision-making and policy changes as it relates to the pandemic.
As part of a layered approach, Penn State has implemented a COVID-19 testing program that consists 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.
In addition, the University has developed requirements for students to meet prior to returning to campus and local communities this semester. For example, 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. 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.
Penn State also will encourage flu shots for all students before the onset of flu season, or certainly before the start of the spring semester, with an eye toward addressing the complicated season that is likely to include flu along with COVID-19, and to reducing as much as possible, a demand for health facilities in order to maintain capacity for the severely ill. At University Park, Penn State’s largest campus, officials are working closely with Mount Nittany Medical Center as part of collaboration with local public health entities, in accordance with state guidance. In addition, partnerships in the communities in which Commonwealth Campuses are situated also are taking place.
All actions being implemented are based on guidance from Penn State health experts and scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, among others. The University will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for returning students and employees to campus.
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.
What should I do if I feel sick? What if I think I've been exposed?
University Park students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who think they may have been exposed should begin the screening process for coronavirus over the phone by calling the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. Students at Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office or local physician’s office. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider if they have respiratory symptoms with a fever or have concerns related to COVID-19.
University Health Services provides telemedicine and in-person visits. All patients with medical concerns must be scheduled for an appointment either online or through the appointment phone line at 814-863-0774. If you are experiencing upper respiratory infection or flu-like illness, you will need to call the UHS Advice Nurse line at 814-863-4463 prior to having an appointment scheduled. UHS will not be accommodating walk-ins.
According to the CDC:
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
- The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
Everyone should wash their hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home. If possible, maintain six feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Put distance between yourself and other people outside of your home.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Stay at least six feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
- Do not gather in groups.
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
- Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Do NOT use a facemask meant for a health care worker.
- Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
- If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Monitor Your Health
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Especially important if you are running essential errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
- Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
Will masks be provided to students for classes?
The University purchased 500,000 reusable, Penn State-branded cloth face masks to be distributed across all campuses. Cloth face masks will be provided to students as needed at the beginning of the semester and employees will receive face masks prior to returning to work. To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, wearing face masks and social distancing will be required in all University buildings, including in classrooms and labs, as well as outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible. Students and employees also should practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wear face masks within their local communities, in line with local and state requirements.
More information on mask distribution is available in this Penn State News story.
What if a campus is located in or near an area of the state with high transmission rates for COVID-19?
Penn State has significant prevention and public health procedures and strategies in place to support the health and safety of students, employees and local communities – the top priority in resuming on-campus activities. Given Pennsylvania’s county-by-county phased pandemic management plan, the status of each Penn State campus may vary, particularly for those that may be located in an area of the commonwealth where various restrictions are in place due to the number of COVID-19 cases in that region.
How have classrooms been adjusted to support social distancing?
Leading up to the fall semester, the University conducted a review of all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Based on a variety of factors, for example the needs and size of a class, in-person classes were reassigned to larger rooms to accommodate social distancing requirements.
Other changes to classrooms included revising room layouts; establishing a distanced space for instructors; and identifying room capacities and potential alternative spaces for classes to take place. These efforts, along with the fall's flexible educational model with some classes delivered remotely, will lower classroom population density, allow for social distancing and meet both educational and safety goals.
What does this mean for international students, immunocompromised or at-risk students, or others who are unable to be on campus this fall?
Flexible options are available to students who are unable to return to any campus so they can continue to make progress toward their degrees. Additional information can be found at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/learning-at-home/. You can also learn about Penn State’s flexible instructional modes at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/flexible-instructional-modes/.
If you are unable to come to a Penn State campus this fall, you can still be connected with the Penn State community and provided with opportunities to stay engaged and motivated. Resources for beginning or continuing your education are available through Penn State Start at Home and Continue at Home programming.
We are committed to providing you with the breadth of support to make this a productive and engaging fall; a world-class education regardless of the method of instruction; an experience that will help you build relationships with a peer group of students who are going through this situation with you.
And once you can join us on campus, you will continue these relationships in person.
For our international students, we are excited to welcome scholars from across the globe into our community, even if current circumstances prevent residential study. International students who are unable to travel to a Penn State campus this fall as a result of travel restrictions, delays in visa processing, or other circumstances related to COVID-19 will be able to use asynchronous remote learning options from time zones outside the U.S. International students can visit global.psu.edu or contact the Office of Global Programs at 814-865-7681 for more information.
Will Penn State publicly release the number of coronavirus cases on its campuses in the fall?
As part of a layered approach to mitigating the spread of coronavirus, Penn State committed to conducting surveillance testing on all of its campuses. The University plans to test at least 1% of its population of students, faculty, and staff who are on campuses this fall. 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 will be reported on the COVID-19 dashboard and will be updated every Monday. 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 (UHS) or Occupational Medicine.
Please note that the surveillance testing protocol begins on Aug. 24, the first day of classes, so data on the dashboard will be limited for the first week until test results are returned. Additionally, the dashboard does not include pre-arrival testing results, as those tests were not conducted on campus and individuals who tested positive were notified to stay at home to isolate for 10 days and until all symptoms resolve and be cleared by a health professional before returning to a campus location.
Will students be required to take their temperatures before attending class?
The University expects students to self-monitor their health, including for example by taking their temperature before going to class or campus. While fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, it is only one of the potential symptoms individuals may have. Individuals with a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and reach out to their health care provider.
The University has launched a COVID-19 symptom checker in the Penn State Go app as another resource in which all members of the University community are strongly encouraged to check symptoms they may be having and receive instructions for how to proceed. The app also will contain updated information about CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health resources and helpful information, such as dining arrangements.
Do I still need to self-quarantine for 7 days if I’ve already returned to campus or moved back to my campus community?
Yes. All 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. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should .
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. If you test positive at a location away from campus, including in a different state, you should immediately contact University Health Services.
For more information about self-quarantine and other pre-arrival requirements for students, read this story in Penn State News.
As coronavirus cases are rising in parts of the country, what are Penn State’s intentions as it continues planning for back to campus?
The University is concerned by the current trends and continuously monitoring state and national disease data and following guidance from state and local health officials. Based on that guidance, and in consultation with faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health, the University is prepared to adjust its approach as necessary, including the possibility that Penn State would need to shift the semester to a fully remote learning environment once again. The University and Governor Wolf have previously stressed the importance of following guidelines to protect community health and minimize the spread of the virus, and cautioned that lax behaviors could undo progress toward reopening campuses.
Do we need to maintain social distancing during class?
Yes, social distancing will be required for all in-person activities on campus this fall, including in classes and labs, as a means to reduce possible virus transmission and to reduce the potential disruption to students’ learning by needing to quarantine close contacts. When in class, both students and instructors should maintain a distance of six feet (about two arm lengths) between one another. The task groups continue to review all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Changes will be communicated for those that have already registered, and opportunities to work with advisers will be made available. Some non-classroom spaces will be repurposed for instruction and every class that meets in person will allow for appropriate social distancing. Additional measures — for example, assigned seating and monitoring of attendance to help facilitate contact tracing will be deployed as considered necessary. To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, and classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses.
What if I am a student who is immunocompromised?
We are dedicated to supporting students who are immunocompromised or at-risk to identify and develop appropriate accommodations, for both on-campus housing and academic needs. Students in need of housing assistance can find contact information for Housing and Food Services at https://hfs.psu.edu/campuses. Students in need of academic assistance should reach out to their college or campus advising office.
For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.
What should I do if I am struggling with the transition back to campus or someone I know seems to be in distress?
This is understandable and there are resources available for both students and employees who are struggling and who need support with the transition back to campus. Students can contact their academic advisers for guidance. The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State. Students at University Park can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 814-863-0395 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Students at Commonwealth Campuses can contact the CAPS office at their campus location. When CAPS is closed, both the Penn State Crisis Line (877-229-6400) and the Crisis Text Line (text “LIONS” to 741741) are still available 24/7 for students at all campuses who are in crisis or need support. Faculty and staff who are in distress are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program, a free, confidential resource to be used as a first line of defense for personal or work-related concerns for yourself or your family.
Is Penn State making any formal changes to classroom attendance policy to encourage students who are ill or may have symptoms to avoid class?
The health of the Penn State community is our top priority, and we must all do our part in preventing the possible spread of coronavirus. Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation of class attendance policies. Sick students are expected to stay home and call their health care provider. In-residence courses will be delivered in a flexible format to allow students who miss class due to quarantine or illness to continue to make critical academic progress. University Park students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should begin the screening process for coronavirus over the phone by calling the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. Students at Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office or a local physician’s office. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider if they have a cough, respiratory symptoms, a fever or have concerns related to COVID-19, and to stay home as well.
What if a student refuses to wear a mask or follow other health and safety guidelines in class?
Classroom Guidance for Instructors is posted on the website for the Office of Student Conduct. This document describes the steps that faculty can take to provide a positive learning environment and manage COVID-related concerns in the classroom. The guidance includes a sample statement for faculty to include in their course syllabi as well as a series of steps that faculty can take if a student fails to adhere to health and safety requirements. Students who fail to comply with requirements will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and will not be allowed to return until the matter is addressed through Penn State’s conduct process. For more information on how to prepare to manage classrooms this fall, watch this video featuring Danny Shaha, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.
Does the UHS Pharmacy remain open?
Yes, however, to reduce the potential for person-to-person contact during the coronavirus outbreak, the University Health Services Pharmacy at University Park will no longer allow walk-ins and instead will only provide prescriptions by mail or curbside pickup, available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, until further notice.
Additional details are available in this Penn State News story.