Health Guidelines

Current masking guidance

In response to accelerating COVID-19 case counts across the state and in consultation with University Faculty Senate leadership, Penn State requires all students, faculty, staff and visitors — including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated — to wear masks indoors at all campuses.

Community members are required to wear masks indoors, including in all classrooms — regardless of size — as well as in meeting rooms, common areas in residence halls, and at any indoor events. All individuals on campus are permitted to eat in designated food service areas, and students living in residence halls are not required to wear a mask in their living space. In addition, employees with individual offices are not required to wear a mask in their personal office. In accordance with CDC guidance, all individuals must wear a face mask while using public transportation.

Students, faculty, staff members and visitors should plan to wear masks indoors on campus until the current COVID-19 surge subsides; the University will provide an update when masking is no longer required. Learn more about the masking requirement here.

Individuals are expected to review campus policies and procedures and local municipal ordinances related to COVID-19 mitigation. Per CDC guidance, individual municipalities, businesses and other organizations may set their own masking and physical distancing expectations.

In addition to 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.

Coronavirus vaccine

Penn State strongly encourages students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and to share their vaccination status with the University as soon as possible. Visit the Vaccine Information page to learn more about the vaccine and where to get a shot.

Masking, distancing and gatherings

Masking and distancing

All students, faculty, staff and visitors — including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated — are required to wear masks indoors at all campuses.

Community members are required to wear masks indoors, including in all classrooms — regardless of size — as well as in meeting rooms, common areas in residence halls, and at any indoor events. Students living in residence halls are not required to wear a mask in their living space, and masks do not need to be worn when actively eating or drinking. It is recommended that eating and drinking be done in designated food service areas, at an individual’s desk, or outdoors.

At this time, masking outdoors and physical distancing are not required, regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, while masks are generally required in office settings and other indoor work areas, masks are not required to be worn when working alone. Examples include:


  • Being isolated in a vehicle or inside an enclosed construction vehicle cab.

  • Working alone within an office, laboratory or classroom with four walls and a doorway.

  • Working alone and seated within a “tall” cubicle with three walls (5 feet or higher) and a door or entryway. Note standing in a cubicle, including working at a standing desk, requires masking.

Doors, if available, to these spaces are required to be closed when unmasked. If individuals in these spaces welcome visitors, it is acceptable to leave the door open slightly to acknowledge availability to enter the space, but masks must be worn when an employee is no longer alone.

More information about wearing masks in office settings is available here from Penn State Environmental Health and Safety.

Additionally, all individuals must wear a face mask while using public transportation, in accordance with CDC guidance, and in some additional settings such as when visiting on-campus health care facilities and when conducting in-person research involving human subjects.

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 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.

Gatherings

All Penn Staters should continue to be vigilant in protecting the community from COVID-19. While the threat may feel distant with fewer restrictions and the ability for vaccinated individuals to freely gather together, it is not gone. Many of the variants, particularly the highly transmissible Delta variant, continue to pose a very serious threat to the unvaccinated in the United States, even to those of a younger age. It is important to be mindful of your activities and personal health when returning to campus life, including social activities. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should not engage in activities with others and seek proper health advice and care.

Individuals are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated for COVID-19. You can find a vaccine provider near you on Vaccines.gov. Having a significant portion of our campus community vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and to guard against the spread of COVID-19 on Penn State campuses in the fall.

Students, faculty and staff who are vaccinated but have not yet shared their vaccination status with the University are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Information on how to upload your vaccine status can be found on the Vaccine Information webpage.

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 working on campus, 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

The following provides guidance for employees on eating in the workplace, including in break areas:

Basic guidelines:

— Wear a mask except when you are actively eating or drinking. Masks help protect both you and those around you.

— Limit the period of unmasked contact, as well as the amount of time and the number of other individuals you are in contact with.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated there is no evidence that handling or eating food spreads COVID-19, but it is always important to follow good personal hygiene and basic food safety practices.

Eating in the workplace and break areas:

— To limit unmasked occasions while actively eating or drinking, we recommend that you eat at your desk, outdoors or designated break areas.

— Minimize extended periods of contact with multiple employees eating within the same space or limited seating capacity in break areas by staggering mealtimes.

— Further, practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands before and after eating, as well as cleaning and sanitizing your food preparation surfaces and high-touch areas before and after.

Review the University’s “Working on Campus” guidance and Human Resources “Back to State” guidance for additional information. See additional CDC guidance on eating and small gatherings.

Masking is required while inside University buildings and classrooms, regardless of vaccination status, by all individuals, including guests and speakers. For large events and press conferences, however, if the speaker is on a stage, at a podium or otherwise physically distanced from the audience, the speaker may remove their mask while delivering their remarks; however, the speaker must mask to and from the stage, podium or microphone. Groups of two or more speakers may follow the same protocols as individual speakers as long as they are positioned at least six feet apart from each other. If the event takes place outdoors, speakers may be unmasked, as masking outdoors is not required at this time.

All Penn State employees must follow the University’s masking protocols. Failure to comply with masking requirements after an initial warning will result in the employee being sent home on paid vacation (if available) or unpaid leave. Upon the employee’s return, supervisors will document the violation using HR78 Staff Employee Failure to Meet Acceptable Standards of Performance in consultation with their HR Strategic Partner. Repeated noncompliant behavior will result in continued utilization of HR78 Staff Employee Failure to Meet Acceptable Standards of Performance which could lead to termination of the employee.

Students and employees with a documented need can submit an application for a medical or religious waiver; however, there are rare instances in which an application for an exemption will be granted by the University.

Technical services employees and other represented employees should check their applicable collective bargaining agreement and work rules for the requirements applicable to them.

Employees exhibiting symptoms are expected to notify their supervisor immediately. Symptomatic employees are expected to not come to work and will be sent home if symptoms begin while working on-site. Supervisors will refer employees to Occupational Medicine for an evaluation and determination of when the employee is safely able to return to work. The employee will be expected to use accrued sick, vacation or personal time (if available) or be placed on an unpaid leave status for the absence to cover any time off until they are released to return to work by Occupational Medicine. The employee may work remotely during the isolation period (with approval from their manager) if their symptoms are mild and their position permits.

During gatherings and events, the goal is to minimize groups of unmasked people before, during and after eating indoors. Rely upon your campus food service provider to help you navigate all your food safety needs.

Key approaches for such gatherings:

— Wear a mask except when you are actively eating or drinking. Masks help protect both you and those around you.

— Shift to outdoors whenever possible for the program and/or dining.

— Limit alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol may make you less likely to follow COVID-19 safety measures.

— Follow basic personal hygiene and food safety practices.

If indoors:

— Plan for speed of service and limit queuing and contact by providing pre-packaged or served meals.

— Display appropriate signage about masking, as well as message in advance that masking is required when not actively eating or drinking.

— Limit the period of unmasked contact, as well as the amount of time and the number of individuals you are in contact with.

— Plan and limit capacity based upon a determined capacity.

— Use disposables and trash receptacles to allow attendees to quickly and easily depart.

Review the University’s “In-person Meetings, Events and Gatherings” guidance for additional planning and approval information. See additional CDC guidance on eating and large gatherings.

Learn more

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