Quarantine and Isolation

Along with comprehensive COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, quarantine and isolation are effective and necessary tactics to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our campus communities. We are here to help you as you do your part in keeping our communities safe and healthy.

More information on student quarantine and isolation, including an extensive FAQ and details on virtual events and activities, can be found on the Student Affairs website.

Information on how a faculty member is notified if a student in their class is in quarantine or isolation, and how faculty can assist with contact tracing efforts, is available here.

What to expect in quarantine or isolation

A referral to quarantine or isolation can be concerning, but we are here to support you and make completion of your time as comfortable and uncomplicated as possible. The University’s robust quarantine and isolation support system is designed to help you continue your studies uninterrupted, maintain your physical and mental health, stay connected and complete your quarantine or isolation period with ease.

While in quarantine and isolation, students can expect:

  • Check-ins by Student Affairs UHS staff to assess individual needs.

  • Faculty notifications by Student Affairs staff.

  • Meal and package delivery for those residing in the Q/I residence hall.

  • Wellness services.

The differences between quarantine and isolation

While quarantine and isolation are both intended to limit the spread of disease, they have different meanings and different time requirements. Quarantine helps prevent people from spreading coronavirus before they know they are sick or if they are infected without feeling symptoms, while isolation is reserved for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.

Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), time requirements for quarantine and isolation depend on a variety of factors, including whether an individual has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, is showing symptoms of COVID-19, has tested positive for COVID-19, and more.

The following provides a summary of quarantine and isolation time requirements for students and employees.

Quarantine requirements

Certain individuals do not have to quarantine, including those who:

  • have received a booster;

  • have all recommended doses of the vaccine, but are not eligible for the booster yet; or

  • have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Instead, for 10 days from their last date of close contact, these individuals must wear a mask around others and monitor themselves for symptoms. It is strongly recommended to test at least five days after the last date of close contact.

Individuals who are not vaccinated or who are vaccinated but not boosted (when eligible based on timing) must quarantine for a minimum of five days. The default quarantine period for students will be 10 days and it will be adjusted if students test negative on day five or later following the last date of their exposure.

With a negative test on day five or later, individuals may leave quarantine on day six or immediately, if they tested negative after day six. Individuals must always wear a mask around others through day 10.

Those who test positive should follow isolation guidance.

All individuals in quarantine should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days

During quarantine, you may or may not develop symptoms of COVID-19. If you do experience symptoms, contact your health care provider; students can contact their campus health center or their primary care provider.

Regardless of vaccination status, any student with new or unexplained symptoms of COVID-19 still needs to isolate and be tested immediately for COVID-19 at University Health Services, their campus health center or their primary care provider.

Where to quarantine

  • Faculty and staff should quarantine at home, ideally in a space where they can avoid contact with others in their household. Visit the CDC website for more information on quarantining.

  • Students living on campus must quarantine in space identified on or near their campus or make arrangements to go home or quarantine in a safe location.

  • Case managers will evaluate quarantine needs for students living off campus as part of the contact tracing process.

Isolation requirements

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination or booster status, must isolate.

  • Individuals must isolate for a minimum of five days from the start of their symptoms or upon a positive test result if they are asymptomatic. The default isolation period for students is 10 days. If the individual is asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving AND fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, they may test on day five or later to possibly shorten the isolation period.

Testing out of isolation

Individuals may test on day five or later if they meet the criteria above and students are required to test on day five or later. If these criteria are not met, they must remain in isolation for 10 days and should not test on day five. A rapid antigen test should be used to test out of isolation, as PCR results may remain positive past the period of infectiousness.

With a negative test on day five or later, isolation can end on day six or thereafter. Students must always wear a mask around others for five additional days per CDC guidance. It is highly recommended a rapid test is used. PCR tests are more sensitive and may remain positive for an extended period of time.

If the COVID-19 test is positive on day five or later, students may leave isolation after a 10-day isolation period.

The University will be notified of all negative tests taken through a University testing process. Students will receive instructions from Contact Tracing on where to upload third-party and self-administered, at-home negative test results for the purpose of testing out of isolation.

During the semester, Penn State Contact Tracing will reach out to students who test positive. Students also will receive an email from contacttracing@psu.edu with a brief questionnaire to complete that may expedite the contact tracing process. Faculty and staff who test positive should self-isolate off campus and report their positive status to their supervisor and contact Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 so their unit can begin the contact tracing process.

Where to isolate

  • Faculty and staff should isolate at home, ideally in a space where they can avoid contact with others in their household.

  • Students living on campus must stay in isolation space on or near their campus or make arrangements to go home or isolate in a safe location.

  • Students living off campus will be accommodated with on- or near-campus isolation space to the extent that the University is able.

Quarantine and isolation

Please see this flow chart from Human Resources to guide you to your answer depending on your individual circumstances.

Students who test positive and need to enter isolation, as well as students who need to quarantine because of a possible exposure to COVID-19, will be encouraged to reach out to their course faculty. While students will be expected to contact their instructors and make every effort to work with the instructor to complete the work and stay on track, faculty are encouraged to work with students to the extent possible, given the challenging circumstances. Additionally, faculty should receive a message from Student Support Services whenever a student must be absent from class to quarantine or isolate. Academic advisers will also be alerted when one of their advisees must miss classes due to quarantine or isolation and students are encouraged to reach out to their advisers for assistance. Student Affairs will be providing support to these students and may be in touch with faculty to assist with the coordination necessary to encourage continued academic progress for these students. For students who are unable to attend class because of quarantine or isolation requirements, faculty have many options for meeting their needs.

Per University Faculty Senate policy 42-27, instructors should work with students to provide, within reason, an opportunity to make up work that they have missed, recognizing that not all work can be made up. Many of the tools that have been used during the last year may assist in helping students continue learning while temporarily absent. Providing live lecture-streaming or recorded lectures, though not required, can be useful in supporting absent students; these are also great examples of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in that they can support a variety of students beyond those who are absent (e.g., English language learners, those with undisclosed learning disabilities, etc.). It is important to emphasize that while the creation of these materials is good practice, they should be temporary and not used to provide fully remote instruction to students for an entire semester, as it creates reporting and regulatory issues, especially for international students.

Yes, unvaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive or suspected of having COVID-19 must quarantine. 

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

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

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