Health Guidelines

To help promote your personal health and safety, as well for those around you, Penn State is requiring all members of the campus community — students, faculty, staff and visitors — to follow a few, simple actions.

These easy steps include:

  • wearing a face mask at all times in campus buildings, and outdoors when you can’t be physically distant from others;

  • practicing physical distancing;

  • avoiding large gatherings; and

  • complying with all testing requirements and contact tracing requests.

Students are expected to review campus policies and procedures and local municipal ordinances related to COVID-19 mitigation, and to abide by the clearly outlined expectations and responsibilities of members of the campus community in the University's COVID-19 Compact.

In addition to these personal actions, Penn State has implemented thorough testing and contact tracing programs as part of its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at its campuses and neighboring local communities.

To continue mitigating the spread of the virus, every individual in the campus community is reminded to "Mask Up or Pack Up," and is required to continue these effective personal actions.

Coronavirus vaccine

Penn State is not currently a distribution point for the coronavirus vaccine. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has more information on where the public can obtain a vaccine shot locally. Note that vaccination status does not exempt a student or employee from Penn State's testing programs.

Visit the vaccine information page to learn more.

Masking, distancing and gatherings

Masking

Students, employees and visitors are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks/coverings whenever they’re away from home. This includes at all times in campus buildings, outdoors and whenever state or local laws require.

The use of face coverings is critical in minimizing the risk to others near you, as the mask helps to contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions. Even if you do not feel sick, you may be unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to others.

Mask types: Multi-layer cloth masks or procedure masks are the preferred type of face covering; all face coverings must cover the nose and chin. Though not required by the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Penn State, the CDC notes that two masks may be worn: a disposable mask beneath a reusable cloth mask. Masks with valves are not acceptable, and 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.

A cloth face mask is NOT a substitute for physical distancing.

Information about specific masking exceptions is available in University Policy AD101.

Physical Distancing

Keeping space between you and others is one of the effective ways to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus and slowing its spread. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it’s important to stay away from others when possible, even if you have no symptoms.

Individuals should stay at least six feet away from others at all times.

To help remind the Penn State community, the University has installed distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations on campuses. Tables, chairs and lounge furniture have been rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations. The University has posted maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas, in accordance with state guidelines.

Any courses with an in-class component will take place in classrooms that have been modified to allow for physical distancing between students and from the instructor.

Gatherings

To avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus, individuals are strongly urged to stay away from crowded places and avoid large gatherings such as parties.

Penn State is strongly advising students to limit their physical contacts to a small group or pod, such as roommates or housemates, and to maintain their physical distance from others in classroom and laboratory settings. The University is encouraging the campus community to meet and socialize through virtual means, whenever possible.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings of 10 or fewer are permitted with no prior permission, but mask wearing and physical distancing is still required. Meeting and event organizers must request permission from a Penn State unit executive to host any indoor or outdoor event that exceeds 10 participants. In addition, the Pennsylvania governor has issued guidance on the maximum number of attendees based on a venue’s maximum occupancy.

Numerous local governments, including the Borough of State College, have enacted ordinances that strictly limit social gatherings.

Students who violate local laws governing large gatherings may be subject to fines, as well as disciplinary action by the University.

What to do if you feel sick

Students

If you’re feeling ill or are worried you might have been exposed to COVID-19, we are here to support you. You are urged to get tested and follow these steps:

Step 1: If you feel sick, isolate yourself immediately.

Step 2: Contact University Health Services or your campus health care provider.

Step 3: If your provider recommends treatment, when traveling to the health care facility:


  • Avoid contact with other people as much as possible.

  • Do not use public transportation.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (do not use your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

  • Wear a mask at all times.

Step 4: Pack for quarantine/isolation. After your exam, you may be sent to quarantine/isolation for up to 10 days. You should pack what you need for your personal and academic needs, and bring them with you.

Step 5: Answer the call from contact tracing. Participate fully in contact tracing phone call — help to identify anyone else who may have been exposed.

Faculty and Staff

Any faculty and staff member who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and call their health care provider to arrange for a symptomatic test, or schedule an appointment at a publicly available COVID-19 testing site.

You also should contact your supervisor, who will contact Occupational Medicine on your behalf. Occupational Medicine will then contact you to determine if you have had close contact with others affiliated with the University.

For faculty and staff members who are concerned about exposure to the coronavirus and are in the University’s “Return to Work” database, Penn State is offering voluntary asymptomatic testing.

Additional information for employees, including testing and screening, frequently asked questions and other resources can be found on the Penn State Human Resources COVID-19 page.

Health guidelines

Limiting the density of our on-campus population reduces the chances of incidental contact that spreads illness. To further reduce the chances of exposure, we have developed protocols to limit public access to campus buildings. Units are strongly encouraged to continue to engage with visitors remotely whenever possible. Click here for full guidance on bringing visitors to campus, including guidelines for individual visitors, group events, employee travel between campuses and hiring.

Employees wishing to have a non-employee visit campus for any period of time must first make a request to their unit executive and are strongly encouraged to consult with Risk Management and the Office of General Counsel prior to the visit. These individuals may not meet the definition of a Visiting Scholar (guidance about Visiting Scholars is available here). Examples of visitors include, but are not limited to, those wishing to audit a class, those wishing to participate in a meeting in person, invited speakers, guest lecturers/speakers in a class, or research collaborators making a short-term visit. The request to the unit executive should include where the visitor is traveling from, why the interaction cannot take place virtually, and the length of the proposed visit. When reviewing requests, unit executives should give attention to the locations from which visitors are traveling and the COVID-19 rates in those locations.

Students are reminded that guests are not allowed in any on-campus residence hall, due to COVID safety rules.

Visitors must comply with all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines during travel and while on campus. An individual’s vaccine status does not impact their obligation to adhere to these guidelines.

As Penn State’s priority is the health and well-being of its students, employees and local communities, the University is preparing for a variety of scenarios if circumstances or guidance from the government and public health authorities requires a reassessment of the plan before the start of the summer and/or fall semesters. Expanded in-person learning is contingent on the latest health and safety guidelines, including physical distancing requirements, as they are adjusted over the summer and fall in response to the state of the pandemic.

Employees can find detailed information and guidance on the Health Guidelines, Contact Tracing, and Quarantine and Isolation pages.

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to physical 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.

The University’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center is evaluating the recently released CDC guidelines on masking outdoors by vaccinated individuals and how they may impact University policies. At this time, the University is continuing to require all individuals to wear face masks inside campus buildings at all times and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. 

Additional information about masking and physical distancing is available on the Health Guidelines page.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor Penn State is requiring the use of a double mask. CDC guidance suggests double masking as a means to improve how individuals can wear their masks. It is important to note, however, that you should not combine two disposable masks or double up on masks if it feels suffocating or difficult to breathe. Individuals seeking means to improve their mask performance can refer to CDC guidance for important ways to make sure your mask works the best it can.

Students, employees and visitors to Penn State are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks/coverings on campus. Multi-layer cloth masks or procedure masks are the preferred type of face covering in campus buildings, outdoors and whenever state or local laws require. All face coverings must cover the nose and chin. According to the CDC, masks should have two or more layers of washable fabric, completely cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face.

Face coverings to avoid

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.

There also 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.

Mask-washing

The CDC also notes that reusable masks should be washed regularly. Reusable masks can be washed individually or with the rest of your laundry with regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the material used to make the cloth mask. The mask is ready to be worn again when it is completely dry.

More about masking

Guidelines surrounding the use of cloth masks are available on the EHS website and also on the University’s health guidelines page.

It is critical to note that a cloth face mask is NOT a substitute for physical distancing. Individuals should stay at least six feet away from others at all times. Keeping space between you and others is one of the effective ways to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus and slowing its spread. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it’s important to stay away from others when possible, even if you have no symptoms.

Learn more

Vaccine information

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Students and families

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