Frequently Asked Questions

Community

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors announced Sept. 16 that fall sports will resume, beginning with football on Oct. 23, following adoption of stringent medical protocols and guidelines. Updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as winter sports that begin in the fall including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and wrestling, are forthcoming.

University leaders have affirmed that health and safety is of the utmost priority as fall sports resume this semester, in a message to the community. Steps being taking include prohibiting tailgating; working with student leaders and organizations; following masking, social distancing and other COVID-related health guidelines; and continuing to partner with local and community leadership.

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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.

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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.

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

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

For questions about current reservations, call 800-233-7505 or email reservations@psu.edu.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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By following University and CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, students can have a direct impact in achieving an extended return to learning and living on campus this fall. Upon returning to campus, students are asked to take personal responsibility both on and off campus and to sign the Penn State COVID-19 Compact to help uphold the health of the community by following University guidelines.

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

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

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To support entrepreneurs across the state, Penn State’s LaunchBoxes are offering a variety of virtual services, accelerator programs, speaker series, events, workshops and more while facilities are closed. For specific information about online programming and services, view this chart or contact your local LaunchBox.

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