How should faculty treat student absences during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are two general principles to keep in mind. First, while it is always true that the University does not want people who are ill to come to class, it is particularly true in the midst of a pandemic. Second, flexibility is essential given that some students are in isolation and quarantine. Below is a summary of the relevant policies and guidance related to how to manage student absences during COVID.
Instructors are encouraged to handle student absences with flexibility during this pandemic period. Additionally, it is critical to our health and safety efforts that instructors advise students who are feeling ill not to attend class. FAQs on the keepteaching website and the virus info website provide additional information about how instructors might provide make-up work to students who are unable to participate in class for a short period of time or to engage them remotely with collaborative or communication tools if the period of time is extensive.
Penn State guidelines pertaining to class attendance are available from two sources. First, the Academic Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual states that “in the case of illness, students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel.” University Health Services does not provide medical notes to students. Second, the University Faculty Senate’s Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students states, “Instructors also should provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss classes for other legitimate but unavoidable reasons. Legitimate, unavoidable reasons are those such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, or religious observance.” In addition, the Faculty Senate’s syllabus guidelines discuss student attendance and explain that syllabi should “emphasize that students should NOT come to class physically when they are feeling ill.”
If a student is taking a CP or CM course and has tested positive for COVID, the instructor will receive an email. Please note that it is possible that a student will notify you of a positive test result before you receive this email. This is explained in depth in an FAQ in the Sept. 4 Faculty Digest. Instructors teaching CR or CW courses will not receive an email if a student in their class tests positive, but should still work with these students to make up any missed work if the student is too ill to attend class remotely.
Students may report to you that they are feeling ill or feel that they may have been exposed. Students who feel ill should be advised to not attend class in person and to get tested through Penn State’s walk-up testing process. Students who feel that they may have been exposed should be advised to complete the Student COVID-19 Self-Referral Form on the COVID-19 support page for students and can also be tested through walk-up testing.
What is Penn State’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program for students?
Random and risk-stratified samples of students will be selected and tested for COVID-19 as part of our multi-pronged testing program. This will allow the University to identify asymptomatic cases (individuals who don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19, but may have the virus), which require isolation. Testing also allows us to assess the levels of any potential spread of the virus in our student population. The test looks for the presence of the coronavirus and helps determine who can spread it. By testing as many people as possible, we hope to minimize the risk of infection on our Penn State campuses and in our communities.
Beginning Aug. 24, surveillance testing of approximately 1% of our campus population has been and will be conducted daily. If a student is selected for surveillance testing, they will be notified via email. Participation in the surveillance testing program is required (except for pre-determined exceptions). There is no cost to the student for this program.
For answers to additional student questions about the University’s random surveillance testing program, visit “Surveillance testing for students.”
What is Penn State’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program for employees?
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.”
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 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.
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 fly 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.
Who is able to be tested via Penn State’s on-demand testing and random screening programs?
University Health Services provides appointment-based, “on-demand” testing for students who have COVID-19-related health issues. The information for students can be found at https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myuhs.
For University Park students who self-identify as having COVID-19 exposure or who have been identified by the contact tracing process, a Vault Health testing site is available on the lower level of the HUB Parking Deck. This is a temporary test site to address current needs and may be extended beyond mid-September if the need continues. 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 to obtain directions on how to obtain a test kit.
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.
Will Penn State implement alternative grading for fall 2020?
For fall 2020, faculty have been preparing their courses for many months, around half of all courses are already being delivered remotely, and students, faculty and staff have all been aware of the need to prepare for a potential pivot to more fully remote instruction if required for health and safety considerations. Therefore, it is very unlikely that alternative grading will be implemented under the current circumstances or in the event that we must pivot to greater use of remote instruction prior to the planned Nov. 20 switch.
I am an employee. What should I do if I am feeling ill or feel that I may have been exposed to COVID-19?
If you are having COVID-19 symptoms, you should 1) leave work immediately if you are at work and self-isolate, 2) notify your supervisor, and 3) contact Penn State Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 or email@example.com. Occupational Medicine will determine whether you need to be tested and whether the test should be ordered through your family physician or through Occupational Medicine. It is important to contact Occupational Medicine, because its staff will contact your supervisor and the University’s Absence Management on your behalf to inform them about when you will be out of the office and when you may be able to return. If you are working remotely, Occupational Medicine will still be able to advise you about testing. You may also wish to consult this chart if you have questions about how to proceed if you feel ill or feel that you may have been exposed.