Health Information

Personal Safety Practices for Everyone on Penn State Campuses


As part of returning to campus for on-campus, in-person classes and other activities during the fall semester, all students, faculty and staff members will be required to take personal actions to help protect themselves and others on campus, as the success of Penn State’s plans depends on everyone doing their part. While on campus, students, employees and visitors are required to wear face masks or coverings, practice social distancing, practice hand hygiene by frequently washing and sanitizing, follow protocols for covering coughs and sneezes, stay home if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.

The University is asking students, prior to returning, if they have exhibited COVID-like symptoms or have reason to believe they were exposed to COVID-19, to self-quarantine and seek testing, in consultation with their health care provider. Further, as a precaution, the University encourages all students who can to self-quarantine prior to arrival.

University policies are under review due to these new circumstances, where we must rely on everyone to fulfill their social obligation to keep the community healthy. While we expect high levels of compliance, non-adherence to these guidelines in a way that elevates exposure and risk for others in the community will be addressed in a manner consistent with how other violations of University guidelines and policies are managed.

For additional information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/back-to-state.


Wear cloth face coverings

Students, employees and visitors are required to practice social distancing and wear face masks/coverings when inside campus buildings, including in classrooms, labs, offices, and other public spaces, and the University is expecting that individuals also will wear a mask when outdoors on campus and in the community. To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them.

Use of face coverings is critical to minimizing risks to others near you, as they help to contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. A cloth face covering is not a substitute for social distancing.

Guidance for wearing a cloth face covering:

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face covering.
  • Be sure the face covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.
  • Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face covering.
  • Disposable face coverings must not be used for more than one day and should be placed securely in the trash after use.

How to properly remove a face covering:

  • First, clean hands by washing or with sanitizer.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the face covering.
  • When taking off the face covering, loop a finger into the strap and pull the strap away from your ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash your hands immediately after removing.


Practice social distancing

Keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools 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 is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you have no symptoms.

To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, and classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses. Tables, chairs and lounge furniture will be rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations, and posting of maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas will become the norm, and in accordance with the governor’s higher education guidance.

To help prevent large gatherings on campus, all courses with enrollment over 250 at University Park and over 100 at a Commonwealth Campus will be delivered remotely, per federal and state guidance. Every class that meets in person will follow social distancing guidelines, and Penn State continues to review more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to revise room layouts; establish a distanced space for instructors; and to identify room capacities and potential alternative spaces for classes to take place. To enable social distancing, as needed, desks and seating in classrooms will be marked if they should not be used. If they were not equipped already, all classrooms on campus are being equipped for remote instruction via Zoom and other technologies.

People on campus must follow these social distancing practices:

Maintain good hygiene

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or touching your face. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. With hand sanitizer, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together briskly until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and always wash your hands after touching your face, as well as other common surfaces.

If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Then throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer.

The University has procured several thousand hand-sanitizer stations, which will be placed in high-traffic areas, and hand sanitizer and/or cleaning wipes will be available for each classroom and classroom building. Enhanced cleaning practices also will be implemented for these spaces.

In addition, units will develop cleaning protocols and schedules to disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared equipment within their areas and offices.


For employees

For a full list of resources and information for employees, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources#employees.

For more information on personal responsibility in the work place or disinfecting protocols for work areas, please visit https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/.

Additional information on universal masking is available in the “Employee Guidance for Working on Campus” resource on the Penn State Environmental Health and Safety COVID-19 website.

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