Frequently Asked Questions

Surveillance testing for employees

If a student or employee with COVID-19 symptoms is selected for surveillance testing, do they still need to complete the surveillance testing process?

Symptomatic individuals selected for surveillance testing should indicate their symptoms via the questionnaire on the COVID-19 surveillance registration website. Students and employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be excluded from random asymptomatic surveillance testing.

Due to the fact that surveillance test samples are analyzed in pools, or groups, for efficiency, and in the interest of personal and community health, symptomatic students should instead stay home and schedule an appointment with University Health Services or their campus health center for individual evaluation and testing. Employees with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home, call their primary care provider, and contact Penn State Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 or psuoccmed@psu.edu.

As part of Penn State’s multi-layered COVID-19 testing program, the University is conducting randomized daily testing of a least 1% of the campus population to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Those excluded from testing due to COVID-19 symptoms may be added back into the testing pool and selected again at a later date.

Those with questions about the surveillance testing process can email HealthyState@psu.edu for assistance. For answers to frequently asked questions about the University’s surveillance testing program, visit “Surveillance testing for students” or “Surveillance testing for employees” on virusinfo.psu.edu.

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Walk-up COVID-19 testing for employees who are listed in the University’s Return to Work database is available on the main concourse of Pegula Ice Arena starting Oct. 9. The testing center is open for employees only from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, or employees may walk up at any time during the center’s normal operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

This walk-up testing is voluntary and does not replace mandatory surveillance testing. Employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be tested at the walk-up testing site. Any employee who feels sick with COVID-19-like symptoms should stay home and call their health care provider to arrange for a symptomatic test.

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

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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.

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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.

More information on COVID-19 testing options at University Park is available from Penn State Student Affairs.

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

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Random and risk-stratified samples of employees will be selected and tested for COVID-19 as part of our multi-pronged testing program. This will allow us to identify employees who may have the virus but are not displaying symptoms (asymptomatic). Asymptomatic cases require isolation and assessment of the level of any potential spread of the virus in our employee population. By testing as many people as possible, we hope to minimize the risk of infection on our Penn State campuses and in our communities.

Surveillance testing of approximately 1% of our campus population began on Aug. 24 and will be conducted each day throughout the semester.

If an employee is selected, they will be notified via email. The registration link in the email will expire the following day. Upon registering, employees will have the option of scheduling their test within the next two days. Participation in the surveillance testing program is required (except for pre-determined exceptions). There will be no cost for this program.

For answers to additional employee questions about the University’s random surveillance testing program, visit “Surveillance testing for employees.”

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Employees are selected to participate in surveillance testing based on the “Return to Work on Campus” database. If you are working remotely and wish to be removed from surveillance testing, you should speak with your supervisor or academic leadership and ask to be removed from the “Return to Work on Campus” database.

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If an employee is selected, they will be notified via an email from HealthyState@psu.edu. The registration link within the email will expire the following day. Upon registering, individuals will have the option of scheduling their test within the next two days. Individuals will receive reminders via email and text message.

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Testing locations vary. When you register for your surveillance test, you will be provided with a list of locations where you can be tested.

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The test will be performed using saliva sampling. After you check in for your appointment, a staff member will guide you through the self-collection process.

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Wait time is estimated to be less than 15 minutes throughout the day.  

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Please bring your Penn State ID card.

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Be well-hydrated on the day of your test. However, do not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth, etc. in the 30 minutes prior to your test.

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To reschedule your appointment, log back into the registration system and reschedule (covid.apps.psu.edu). You can only reschedule during your eligibility window.

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There is no cost to the employee. The test is completely free and will not be charged to your insurance.

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At the time of testing, you will register with Vault Health using your psu.edu email address. You will receive an email from hello@updates.vaulthealth.com with your results at your psu.edu email address within 48-72 hours of taking your test.

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Test results will be emailed to your Penn State email account (psu.edu). 

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Yes. A COVID-19 test can only tell us your health status at a single point in time. Thus, testing is required regardless of previous testing history.

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If you have a previous positive test, please log into the registration system (covid.apps.psu.edu). Your specific circumstances will be assessed, and you will be informed whether you need to continue with testing.

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The data is stored in HIPAA-compliant software and databases. Any questions related to privacy should be directed to the Office of Information Security.

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Regardless of your symptom profile, a positive test will result in isolation. The University’s office of Occupational Medicine will contact you and discuss guidelines for isolation and will provide you with the date you can return to work.

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Most employees are required to participate in surveillance testing. The surveillance invitation will specify whether an employee has been selected for mandatory or voluntary testing.

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After being tested by the surveillance program, you will be returned to the testing pool seven days later. This is because someone’s COVID status can change at any time. We are committed to providing ongoing testing for the campus community that provides an accurate estimate of the disease prevalence.

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No. If you test positive, Occupational Medicine will provide guidance and advise you and your family to seek medical care from your personal health care provider. 

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