We're Ready for You

Coronavirus and Return to Campus Information

Penn State Berks is ready for you! The health and safety of the Penn State Berks community is our first priority and we would like to share some of the strategies we have put into place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus on campus.

The University is planning for full on-campus activities, including in-person teaching, learning and working, for the spring 2022 semester.

Although plans for a full on-campus experience for the spring semester remain unchanged, the health and safety of our community continues to drive the University’s decision-making, and Penn State is prepared to quickly respond to changing pandemic conditions, if necessary.

Spring 2022 COVID-19 Testing

The health and safety of Penn State students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities are the University's top priorities. To that end, Penn State has developed a comprehensive spring 2022 COVID-19 testing strategy for all campuses. The University's spring 2022 COVID-19 testing plans include voluntary drop-in and mail-in testing, symptomatic testing (for students) and required testing.

During the semester, all students enrolled at a residential campus and taking in-person classes or web courses — living both on and off campus — who remain unvaccinated or do not submit confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination to the University will be required to test for COVID-19 weekly throughout the semester or until they share with the University that they have been fully vaccinated.

Throughout the semester, students who have not shared with the University that they are fully vaccinated will receive an email each Monday to remind them to be tested and have until the following Sunday to complete a University-administered COVID-19 test. A negative result from a test administered outside of the University will not be accepted.  If a student is not compliant (no test taken from Monday to Sunday) they will lose access to Canvas. Penn State gets a data feed from its testing vendor, Vault Health, that is updated hourly—access to Canvas will be restored shortly after a test is completed in the Vault system.

At Commonwealth Campus locations, tests will either be distributed from a location on campus or ordered via mail from Vault Health. Students can check online to learn how to obtain and complete a test on their campus. The weekly email will also contain a link that provides students additional details for their campus testing process.

Additionally, here are some other important resources for students:

  • Who can I contact with COVID-19 questions?
    • You can contact the Penn State COVID-19 Call Center at 814-865-2121 or submit an online contact form;
    • You can also visit the University’s Virus Info Site, which also includes a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section
  • How do I upload my proof of vaccination?
    • You can submit your vaccine information here: Students - Proof of Vaccine Submission
  • I can’t find my weekly testing email, how do I order a COVID-19 test in the mail?
    • While most campus distribute tests from an on-campus location, all students can order a test in the mail here.

Federal Vaccine Mandate – What Does It Mean For Students?

While the University is not currently requiring vaccinations for students who are not also working at the University, Penn State is not impartial when it comes to getting vaccinated. The University’s stance is that everyone who can get a vaccine should do so as soon as possible to attain high vaccination rates on all Penn State campuses.

In compliance with President Joe Biden’s Sept. 9 executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all federal employees, contractors and others, Penn State has determined that every Penn State employee — including students supported on wage payroll and graduate students supported on graduate assistantships — will need to be either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved medical/disability or religious-related accommodation, regardless of whether or not they work on federal contracts. This mandate is currently under an injunction and will not be implemented by Penn State at this time, however the injunction could be lifted in the near future. In the meantime, the University will continue with the current testing protocols already in place.

  • I’m a student on wage payroll or I have a graduate assistantship. How do I request a medical, disability or religious accommodation for the vaccine?
    • Individuals who believe that their sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances prevent them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, may complete an online accommodation request form and submit it to the Affirmative Action Office (AAO) for consideration.
    • Undergraduate and graduate students supported on wage payroll, who have a disability or medical condition that they believe prevents them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine can request accommodations by completing an online request form
    • Please note: There are no accommodations to remove an individual from the testing protocol altogether. Individuals that are subject to the vaccine mandate that receive an approved accommodation will be required to test weekly as part of the accommodation process.

Indoor masking requirement set to remain in effect into the spring 2022 semester

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear face masks while indoors on campus and on public transportation

With the identification of the omicron coronavirus variant and experts predicting the number of COVID-19 cases to rise over the winter months, Penn State’s indoor masking policy will remain in effect into the spring 2022 semester. University officials will continue to monitor the evolution of the pandemic and the spread of various coronavirus variants and will adjust Penn State’s masking policy when it is safe to do so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pennsylvania continues to have high COVID-19 transmission rates. The CDC continues to recommend the use of face masks in indoor settings for unvaccinated individuals, fully vaccinated individuals in areas with substantial or high transmission rates, and fully vaccinated individuals with weakened immune systems.

University policy requires all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face masks while indoors on campus. Masks are required in all classrooms, as well as in meeting rooms, common areas in residence halls and at all indoor events. Under a federal rule extended by the Biden administration until March 18, masks must also be worn while traveling on public transportation.

Masks may be removed indoors when an individual is actively eating or drinking or at events when speaking at a podium or microphone at least six feet away from other attendees and participants. The public speaking exception does not apply to classes – masks must be worn in classrooms at all times and eating in classrooms remains prohibited in accordance with Policy AD62 Use of General Purpose Classrooms.

Employees with individual offices are not required to wear a mask in their personal office. More information is available via the University’s masking policy.

The masking policy applies to all Penn State campuses except the College of Medicine, which has its own specific guidance for its community.

More information on the types of masks and how to properly wear and care for them is available on the Penn State Environmental Health and Safety website.

Penn State strongly recommends COVID-19 boosters to employees and students

COVID-19 boosters protect against severe illness from omicron variant, studies show

As the omicron coronavirus variant spreads throughout the U.S., Penn State strongly encourages its students and employees to get their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

“Although the omicron variant appears to be more transmissible than the delta variant, studies show that getting the COVID-19 booster significantly reduces the risk of severe illness from both variants, and it may also lessen an individual’s ability to transmit the virus to others,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of the Penn State COVID-19 Operations Control Center. “Therefore, it is extremely important for students and employees to get their boosters to help protect our campus communities.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends the COVID-19 booster for all fully vaccinated individuals ages 16 years or older. To be eligible for a booster, people must have completed their Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations at least six months ago, or their Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine at least two months ago. All three authorized COVID-19 vaccines are readily available at hospitals, urgent care centers, doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Providers can be easily located by visiting Vaccines.gov.

While people who completed their original COVID-19 vaccines are, at this time, still considered fully vaccinated and the vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, Matthew Ferrari, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, said medical professionals are starting to observe reduced protection over time.

“It is normal for antibody levels to wane over time, and public health experts are seeing that happening in those who were the first to receive their initial vaccines,” said Ferrari. “Unfortunately, those are disproportionately older adults, those with certain health conditions, and health care and other frontline workers.”  

According to Ferrari, waning antibody levels and the fact that all three U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less protective against the omicron variant emphasize the urgent need for people to get their boosters.

“Those who were previously infected or fully vaccinated [two doses of Pfizer/Moderna or one dose of J&J] have significantly reduced protection against infection with omicron,” he said. “However, studies suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech booster increases immune protection against omicron to a level that is comparable to the two-dose regimen against the original variant. Preliminary data suggest the same for the Moderna booster. Further, any of the vaccines provide strong protection against omicron in those who were previously infected with a prior variant.”  

Leslie Parent, vice dean for research and graduate studies and an infectious diseases physician, Penn State College of Medicine, noted that everyone who is eligible to receive a booster should do as soon as possible. “Getting a booster reduces the risk of breakthrough infections as well as hospitalizations and severe disease,” she said. “Gaining additional protection by getting a booster is even more important now that cases are rising again, as well as concerns about infections caused by the omicron variant increasing across the country.”  

She noted that, in addition to the COVID-19 booster, anyone who has not yet had the influenza vaccine should get the shot right away.  

“Getting both the COVID-19 booster and influenza vaccine at the same time is safe and won’t adversely affect your immune response to either one,” she said. “Preventing more cases of the flu will help reduce some of the pressure facing our highly taxed health care system. Unfortunately, many hospitals are over capacity and struggling to meet the needs of those who require hospitalization for COVID-19 and other illnesses.”

In addition to vaccination and boosters, Parent added, continuing to wear masks indoors in public settings, avoiding crowds and handwashing are highly effective tools for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, including the flu.  

“Getting COVID-19 boosters and influenza vaccines, combined with other strategies like masking, distancing and staying home if you are not feeling well are important actions to take   as we enter the holiday season with more people traveling and gathering indoors,” she said. “We all want to be able to visit family and friends safely over winter break, and doing what we can to stay healthy will make the holidays much more enjoyable.”