When we come back to campus, what do we need to do to be prepared?
The health and well-being of the Penn State community is the University’s first priority as we look forward to welcoming the community back to our campuses. As announced June 14, Penn State will begin to have students and employees return to campuses in phases with significant prevention and public health procedures in place to help maintain the health and safety of our students, employees and local communities.
Specific to public health, as part of a “new normal” for returning to campus, all students, faculty and staff members will be expected to take personal actions to help protect themselves and others on campus — the success of the University’s plans will be largely dependent on everyone doing their part. While on campus, students, employees and visitors are expected 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 sick, and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. The University will employ enhanced cleaning and sanitation, hygiene stations, plexiglass, signage and various other measures to provide for physical distancing and other health and safety needs.
Additional guidance for members of the University will continue to be provided at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/, which will be updated regularly with the latest information and guidance as we all work together toward a safe return.
Since March, more than 250 individuals serving on 16 task groups and subcommittees have been preparing for a coordinated return to on-campus working, learning and living for students and employees across each of the University’s campuses. Penn State has taken a robust public-health- and science-based approach to inform how it will manage social distancing, limit the size of events, and provide learning environments that are as safe as reasonably possible. Penn State will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities that have been outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for returning students and employees to campus.
The University is taking a multi-layered approach to confronting the coronavirus, which will include pre-arrival testing, quarantine strategies, monitoring local health systems, surveillance sampling, and testing of symptomatic and suspected positive individuals.
Before returning to Penn State, all students must:
For the latest information on student health requirements, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/back-to-state/.
University leadership and the task groups will work with governance and advisory bodies, including the University Faculty Senate and the University Staff Advisory Council, to work through the details of course delivery, classroom and workplace safety, and other aspects of the return to campus.
Will there be a mandatory quarantine before coming back to campus?
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. It is in everyone’s best interest that students arrive after taking precautionary steps, to reduce the likelihood of community exposure. Over the summer, the University may have further guidance, depending on developments with COVID-19.
How does Penn State plan to manage the risk of inviting students back to campuses who could potentially reintroduce COVID-19?
Maintaining the health and safety of the campus and local communities is the top priority driving Penn State’s decision-making and policy changes as it relates to the pandemic. The University is asking students, prior to returning to campus, 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.
Penn State also will encourage flu vaccination for all students before the onset of flu season, or certainly before the start of the spring semester, with an eye toward addressing the complicated season that is likely to include flu along with COVID-19, and to reducing as much as possible, a demand for health facilities in order to maintain capacity for the severely ill.
All actions being implemented are based on guidance from Penn State health experts and scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, among others. The University will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for returning students and employees to campus.
What should I do if I am struggling with the transition back to campus or someone I know seems to be in distress?
This is understandable and there are resources available for both students and employees who are struggling and who need support with the transition back to campus. Students can contact their academic advisers for guidance. The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State. Students at Commonwealth Campuses can contact the CAPS office at their campus location. When CAPS is closed, both the Penn State Crisis Line (877-229-6400) and the Crisis Text Line (text “LIONS” to 741741) are still available 24/7 for students at all campuses who are in crisis or need support. Faculty and staff who are in distress are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program, a free, confidential resource to be used as a first line of defense for personal or work-related concerns for yourself or your family.
Do we need to wear masks and maintain social distancing when we return to campus?
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to social 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. Students, faculty and staff are expected to practice social distancing and wear face masks in classrooms, labs, offices, dining and retail facilities, and public spaces. The campus community is also expected to wear face masks outdoors when they cannot be physically distant from others and whenever state or local laws require.
To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them. In addition, distance markers, directional arrows, signs and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations, which also will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind. 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.
Are there penalties for faculty, staff and students who do not follow health guidance related to working, living and being on campus?
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus and support a healthy return to living and taking classes on campus, all students and employees have a personal and collective responsibility to follow guidelines from the University, which are aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health. For example, students and employees will be expected to wear masks and practice social distancing in classrooms, labs, offices, dining and retail facilities, public spaces, and while walking and traveling on campus.
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.
Will Penn State be testing students and employees for coronavirus?
The University is employing strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing and contact tracing to monitor and react to trends in data at the community and national levels.
A robust testing and contact-tracing program will test symptomatic individuals and conduct asymptomatic testing on individuals who are identified in the contact-tracing process. Penn State will hire additional staff to serve as contact tracers as needed to support all campuses and plans to enhance access to early health-care consultation and treatment. Contact-tracing supports virus case detection and is designed to help prevent future outbreaks. The University also is building capacity to isolate and quarantine impacted individuals, including support for isolated persons, to facilitate proper medical care.
These efforts will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities that have been spelled out by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for returning students and employees to campus and will include processes for testing students, faculty and staff. Additional details are forthcoming.
There is a national shortage of tests. How do you know that you will have them in August and throughout the fall?
Penn State’s plans for resuming on-campus activities align with the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s guidelines for colleges and universities, and the University will meet or, where possible, exceed, all of the expectations of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration. In line with public health guidance, the University is working through details over the summer to support our student and employee populations across all campuses. Additional details of testing plans will be provided in the near future as they are finalized.
Is there a plan in case the virus flares up again? After students are back, what would be the trigger for having students vacate campuses again?
Penn State is prepared to be nimble and responsive. All classes that are planned to have in-person meetings will have contingency plans for reverting to remote instruction modalities if circumstances require.
A number of factors may lead to additional distancing measures or adjustments to campus-based residential course delivery. Penn State will be monitoring the local rates of transmission for the disease in communities surrounding its campuses, as well as trends around the country and globe, to continue informing decision-making. Any recorded upticks will be analyzed and, as needed, decisions will be made on a campus-by-campus basis taking into consideration guidance from public health officials.
What if my campus is located in or near an area of the state with high transmission rates for COVID-19?
Penn State will begin to have students and employees return to campuses in phases and will have significant prevention and public health procedures and strategies in place to support the health and safety of students, employees and local communities – the top priority in resuming on-campus activities. Given Pennsylvania’s county-by-county phased pandemic management plan, the status of each Penn State campus may vary, particularly for those that may be located in an area of the commonwealth where various restrictions are in place due to the number of COVID-19 cases in that region.
Can you describe the measures Penn State is taking with local communities to prevent the spread of the virus? For example, what is the University doing to minimize off-campus large gatherings?
To allow in-residence instruction and activities to continue and to uphold the health and safety of campus and local communities, students will be urged to take personal responsibility and follow health guidelines, including wearing masks, adhering to physical distancing practices, washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes. In addition to providing education and support directly to students and other student organizations, Penn State will collaborate and coordinate with local government officials, landlords and local employers to share resources and to encourage students to follow expectations for off-campus behavior. In addition, 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 as healthy as possible. Based on the governor’s guidelines advising against large gatherings, and out of respect for the risks to the broader University community, large gatherings are discouraged.
What will our return look like for course instruction? Will instruction be in person, remote or a hybrid model?
There will be changes to the academic schedule focused on enhancing safety, minimizing travel and lowering the risk of spread of the virus. To meet these goals, the fall semester will begin on the originally scheduled date of Monday, Aug. 24, and campus-based residential instruction will end Friday, Nov. 20, with the remainder of the semester—including finals—being delivered remotely and/or online when classes resume after Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30. To minimize travel and lower the risk of spreading coronavirus on campuses, classes will be held on Labor Day (Sept. 7). The semester will end following finals on Dec. 18, as originally planned.
Penn State offers several options designed to fit your needs as you start or continue your Penn State education in fall 2020. You may plan to attend in-person or may consider attending remotely through the Start at Home or the Continue at Home program. As we navigate this health crisis together, Penn State Berks is here to help make the choice that is best for you.
If you are considering taking part in the remote Start at Home or Continue at Home program, we strongly recommend that you fully explore the three options outlined on Learning at Home. Each of these options comes with critical differences and limitations, so it is important that you understand these differences before making a final decision. We also strongly recommend speaking with your academic adviser. If you are not sure who your adviser is, please check LionPath or contact the Academic Advising Center at 610-396-6280 or email [email protected].
Due to the number of students registered for in-person courses and the size of classrooms, necessary changes have been made to the academic schedule to focus on enhancing safety and lowering the risk of spread of the virus. Penn State Berks will deliver smaller classes, following University guidance. Course delivery will occur through a highly flexible mix of in-person, remote, and online instruction throughout the semester. For a description of instructional modes, please visit https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/flexible-instructional-modes/. Your professors will contact you via email in the near future to explain how your courses will be delivered, and you are also encouraged to contact your professors with any questions or concerns.
Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation and management of in-person class attendance so that sick students can stay home, and the University will work with immunocompromised and other at-risk students to develop appropriate accommodations. For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.
Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them to meet their desired educational outcomes no matter the method of delivery, and advisers will be available to assist students on crafting their individual class schedules and curricula options.
What does a flexibly delivered curriculum mean for international students living abroad?
The University will provide resources and support to international students who can’t be on campus to help them select courses and develop schedules that will enable them to move forward with their academic progress and advance toward a degree. As a member of Penn State, a student joins a long tradition of academic excellence with a university committed to providing unrivaled opportunities. It is through the dedication of exceptional students, faculty, and staff that makes Penn State a truly extraordinary place to study. Our faculty – who are the same in the classroom as those that would teach you remotely – have innovative solutions to provide exceptional learning experiences for our students. You will meet faculty, you will make friends, and you will set yourself on a path toward success this fall and when you are back on campus. We are ready for you now to help you prepare for your future. Additional options are being developed and considered and will be announced over the coming weeks.
Is Penn State making any formal changes to classroom attendance policy to encourage students who are ill or may have symptoms to avoid class?
The health of the Penn State community is our top priority, and we must all do our part in preventing the possible spread of coronavirus. Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation of class attendance policies. Sick students are expected to stay home and call their health care provider. In-residence courses will be delivered in a flexible format to allow students who miss class due to quarantine or illness to continue to make critical academic progress. Students at Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office or a local physician’s office. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider if they have a cough, respiratory symptoms, a fever or have concerns related to COVID-19.
Do we need to maintain social distancing during class?
Yes, social distancing will be expected for all in-person activities on campus this fall, including in classes and labs, as a means to reduce possible virus transmission and to reduce the potential disruption to students’ learning by needing to quarantine close contacts. When in class, both students and instructors should maintain a distance of six feet (about two arm lengths) between one another. The task groups continue to review all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Changes will be communicated for those that have already registered, and opportunities to work with advisers will be made available. Some non-classroom spaces will be repurposed for instruction and every class that meets in person will allow for appropriate social distancing. Additional measures — for example, assigned seating and monitoring of attendance to help facilitate contact tracing will be deployed as considered necessary. 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.
What if our classrooms do not permit for proper social distancing?
The task groups continue to review all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Based on a variety of factors, for example the needs and size of a class, classes will be reassigned to larger rooms to accommodate social distancing requirements. Changes will be communicated for those that have already registered, and opportunities to work with advisers will be made available.
Studies of Penn State classrooms are continuing across the 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. These efforts, along with the flexible educational model, delivering some classes remotely and/or online, will allow the University to lower classroom population density, allow for social distancing and meet both educational and safety goals.
Will there be a limit on the number of people in a classroom? What is that limit and how will it be enforced?
As part of a flexible delivery model, large enrollment courses with 100 or more students will be delivered online and/or remotely, per federal and state guidance. Campuses and colleges will have the latitude to decide how best to deliver courses with smaller enrollments. 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.
What does a “return to research” look like?
On-campus research activities have resumed using a phased approach. As part of the return to on-campus research, unit-specific processes and protocols have been developed to prioritize the health and well-being of researchers, faculty, staff, students and the community. The return to on-campus research will be gradual, and all researchers who are able should continue to work remotely. The specifics of returning to on-campus research will look different for each college, campus, institute or unit. Investigators with questions regarding the specifics of returning to on-campus research activity should contact their dean, chancellor or institute director. Guidance for return-to-research plans are updated regularly and can be found at https://www.research.psu.edu/COVID_return_research.
Will students be required to take their temperatures before attending class?
The University expects students to self-monitor their health, including for example by taking their temperature before going to class or campus. While fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, it is only one of the potential symptoms individuals may have. If you have a temperature or symptoms of feeling sick, individuals should reach out to their health care provider.
What if I am a student who is immunocompromised?
We are dedicated to supporting students who are immunocompromised or at-risk to identify and develop appropriate accommodations, for both on-campus housing and academic needs. Students in need of housing assistance can find contact information for Housing and Food Services at https://hfs.psu.edu/campuses. Students in need of academic assistance should reach out to their college or campus advising office.
For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.
Will masks be provided to students for classes?
The University purchased 500,000 reusable masks to be distributed across all campuses. Cloth face masks will be provided to students as needed at the beginning of the semester and employees will receive face masks prior to returning to work. Masks will be expected to be worn in classrooms, labs, offices, dining and retail facilities, public spaces, and while walking and traveling on campuses.
Who will make sure that students follow safety guidelines? Are there penalties for noncompliance? What support will professors have if students are not adhering to masking and other safety guidelines?
By following University and CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, students can have a direct impact in achieving an extended return to learning and living on campus this fall. Upon returning to campus, students will be asked to take personal responsibility both on and off campus and to sign a pledge to help uphold the health of the community by following University guidelines.
Mask wearing and social distancing will be required in class, and faculty members will have discretion to make delivery modality adjustments if they have concerns about adherence to University requirements. Faculty members have long had considerable influence over behavior in the classroom, either through informal conversations with students or through grading and class participation polices. Students will be warned first, but faculty will have the authority to remove students from class if they refuse to comply. Where students fail to comply despite these efforts, faculty members can refer students to the University’s conduct process through the Office of Student Conduct, and students will be required to participate in a disciplinary process before they can return to the classroom. Faculty will receive guidance on enforcement, and they will be supported in these critical measures.
To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses.
What will happen if/when students test positive?
Any student who feels sick or who has symptoms, or has been exposed to COVID-19, should stay home and seek the advice of a medical professional as appropriate. Students who test positive for the virus are expected to isolate for 14 days, and if a student was not tested on campus, they should notify University Health Services or the local campus health professional about the results. Individuals who test positive will be interviewed to identify people with whom they had close contact (less than six feet of distance for 15 minutes or longer within two to four days before the onset of symptoms). These close contacts will be alerted, asked to quarantine for 14 days, and asked to be tested immediately.
Students who must isolate will receive detailed instructions, and they will receive daily check-ins regarding their health. The University will work closely with these students to see that they continue to make academic progress, and to assist with any other needs that may arise.
What does this mean for international students, immunocompromised or at-risk students, or others who are unable to be on campus this fall?
Penn State is committed to meeting its students where they are. Flexible options will be available to students who are unable to return to any campus so they can continue to make progress toward their degrees. Additional information can be found at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/learning-at-home/.
For our international students, we are excited to welcome scholars from across the globe into our community, even if current circumstances prevent residential study. We understand that travel restrictions and delays in the visa process may make it difficult for international students to arrive in the fall, but we are committed to working with our students to support their academic progress.
For those students unable to join us on campus, a robust portfolio of remote delivery course work and student experiences is being developed to allow them to continue or begin working toward their Penn State degree.
Starting in the fall means first-year students will build a strong foundation for their academic programs, and students will not have to delay lifetime plans to pursue degrees at one of the best universities in the world. When they can arrive on campus, these students will already have established relationships with fellow students and faculty members. In a dynamic environment, learning happens via video- or tele-conferencing, live chatting, or livestreaming lectures on your normally scheduled class day and time. Students are able to achieve their academic goals while also meeting other Penn State students, making friends, engaging with faculty – the same ones you will meet when you are on the ground at a campus – and working with student organizations. Our community will support students in making these valuable connections that will serve them long into the future.
Regardless of their ability to attend in-residence classes, students will be able to make academic progress throughout the semester. Penn State students who cannot be in residence, including first-year students living outside the U.S.; first-year or continuing students with health concerns; transfer students who cannot be in residence; and students who choose not to be in residence, will have a high-quality experience that includes courses critical for their educational advancement and integration into the University.
Will there be student activities, like intramural sports, student organizations, Greek life, THON, Movin’ On, activities fair, etc.?
Co-curricular learning is an important component of students’ college experiences. Student organizations are expected to adhere to all health and safety requirements established by the University, including social distancing and meeting virtually. While large gatherings will be prohibited upon return, restrictions may be loosened depending on results of early stage mitigation efforts. Recreational activities and facilities will be open if participants can adhere to social distancing, enhanced sanitation measures and other safety standards. Additional information relevant to specific activities will be forthcoming closer to the start of the semester.
What is the program for the University maintaining and sanitizing all buildings (residence halls, office buildings, classrooms, etc.)?
To support the health and well-being of students and employees, there will be extensive, daily cleaning of high-touch surface areas, classrooms, labs, offices, restrooms and other common spaces across the University. Desks, podiums, conference tables, interior doorknobs, interior doors, push plates, handrails, light switches and other identified high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected at an appropriate frequency. 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. Guidance is available on the Environmental Health and Safety website. As part of these efforts, employees should avoid sharing tools and equipment as much as possible and supervisors should stagger shifts, if possible, for high-use shared equipment and establish disinfection protocols between uses. Individual employees also will be responsible for helping to maintain a clean work environment for themselves and others by cleaning and disinfecting desks, equipment, and materials before and after use.
How does the University plan to make high-touch areas, such as workshops, computer laboratories, gyms, etc., safe for users?
Penn State will implement enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures using disinfectants approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There will be extensive and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces. In some cases, it will be necessary to adjust hours of operation for some buildings to accommodate the necessary cleaning and disinfecting, and in other cases there will be a phased approach to reopening. The University will monitor and evaluate cleaning protocols for these areas and adjust as needed.
Will campus facilities be open (e.g. Intramural Building, Rec Hall, student unions)?
Yes, facilities will be open. However, there will be new occupancy limits in place and hours of operation may be adjusted for various buildings and facilities to support the health and safety of the campus community. These changes will be in addition to University-wide social distancing and masking expectations for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Does COVID-19 spread thorough building mechanical systems?
Based on numerous studies, we do not believe that the virus can be effectively transmitted through a building’s central mechanical system.
Multiple studies have identified that, while transmission is theoretically possible, the risk of transmission seems improbable. Taylor Engineering, a private engineering firm, performed a review of more than 80 research reports and concluded that none of the studies demonstrated transmission through central air handling systems. https://taylorengineers.com/taylor-engineering-covid-19-whitepaper
Are there specifications for the use of plexiglass barriers in front of all reception/forward facing employee counters?
The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) is only recommending plexiglass barriers in front of high-volume, face-to-face interaction counters (food service, libraries, registrar).
Plexiglass barriers should only be placed at high traffic/high- volume transaction counters with the highest potential for face-to-face interaction with the public. We are not recommending plexiglass barriers in lower volume interactions (reception desks, open office settings, etc.) Mandatory mask use should address all low-traffic office interactions and make plexiglass guards redundant.
Social distancing requirements will only allow for one person at a time in many of our restrooms given the size of many of our facilities. Has OPP considered how to manage one person at a time in these locations, or how long between someone being in a restroom and flushing/sneezing/coughing and allowing the next person to enter?
OPP is not recommending any occupant limitations to restrooms.
First and foremost, we want to encourage hand washing and strict occupancy limits may discourage that habit, as people may try to exit quickly. Further, the proper use of universal masks where required or necessary, coupled with the limited time in shared space with others is not expected to be a significant contributing factor to occupant exposure to the coronavirus. Finally, all bathrooms are exhaust-ventilated to maintain negative pressure (to prevent odors from leaving the bathroom). This ventilation will pull air from the surrounding corridors, so that bathrooms have higher air exchange rates than other spaces.
Will the University assist campuses/colleges with costs for temporary storage of classroom and conference room furniture that will need to be removed to meet social distancing requirements? Classrooms and conference rooms can only keep 20 – 35% of their seating with the new guidelines, dependent on room configuration.
OPP is not recommending the removal and storage of any classroom and/or conference room furniture.
The spacing will be self-policing , require assigned seating, or be accomplished by taping off seats rather than removing and storing them. Conference room seating can be stacked or pushed to the side. Room occupancy will be managed through signage, education and scheduling.
It’s been suggested that doors be propped open at busy times of the day so that multiple people do not have to touch the same door handles. May we do this, and if so, can CCure alarms be overridden?
OPP does not recommend that any exterior doors be propped open.
First and foremost, a primary concern in buildings are fire and overall safety. In addition, staffing to open/close those doors, maintaining building temperature setpoints (especially in very hot or very cold weather), increasing population of rodents/birds/bugs in facilities, and possibly freezing the sprinkler heads located in most vestibules if doors are left open in winter. Interior doors that are not fire doors may be propped open. OPP recommends placing hand sanitizer stations inside the exterior doors for people to use.
Should we be using water fountains as they seem likely places to spread the virus?
OPP does not recommend any change to the use of water fountains.
Since most water fountains are near bathrooms, we are recommending hand sanitizer stations be located near any water fountain that requires hands for use. Building custodial personnel will periodically clean high-contact surfaces such as water fountains. Current CDC guidelines suggest that commonly touched surfaces are less likely to spread the virus than previously suspected. We would also recommend using the bottle filling stations as appropriate.
What steps should students take before moving into the residence halls?
It is very important that students check with their health insurance provider regarding their coverage at local healthcare facilities. The following are three providers located near campus:
Patient First- 2600 Papermill Rd, Wyomissing, PA 19610
Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center- 2500 Bernville Rd, Reading, PA 19605
Reading Hospital | Tower Health - 420 S 5th Ave, West Reading, PA 19611
What should students bring with them when moving into the residence halls?
We recommend that students bring a thermometer with them to keep in their residence hall suite. While Health Services will be available on campus, hours and possible high demand may make it more convenient for students to have their own thermometers on hand. Face masks will be provided, however students are also encouraged to bring extra face masks with them.
With the in-residence portion of the fall semester ending on Nov. 20, will room and board rates be adjusted accordingly?
Yes, room and board charges will be adjusted for the time period in late November and early December when students will be completing the fall semester remotely. Additional information will be provided in the near future.
How are students going to live together in rooms? Will Penn State consider offering more single-occupancy rooms to students?
To help limit prolonged person-to-person contact, this fall, no residence hall room or space may be occupied by more than two residents. To the extent possible, single rooms will be provided to immunocompromised or at-risk students, or a student requesting one, although immunocompromised or at-risk students will receive priority consideration. Roommate requests also will be honored.
At least initially, guests will be prohibited in the residence halls, while the University monitors the return to campus.
Residence hall bathrooms will be cleaned at least two times each day; masks are expected to be worn in bathrooms, except when showering or brushing teeth. General facility cleaning regimens will be based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American College Health Association, the Department of Health and others.
Residence Life will significantly modify its programming and interactions with students to minimize risks associated with transmission of the virus, and social or physical distancing requirements in the residence halls will be strictly enforced.
Seating will be substantially reduced in common areas and lounges to accommodate physical distancing; all lounge space will be closed initially – all in accordance with the governor’s guidance. Over time, relaxation of that status will depend on the effectiveness of mitigation efforts. Elevator usage may be discontinued initially, except for special circumstances; at a minimum, occupancy in elevators will be more restricted than usual. One-way traffic for each stairwell, up or down, will be communicated and expected.
Will every Penn State student be tested in the fall before moving into residence halls?
The University will meet or exceed the expectations for colleges and universities for returning students and employees to campus provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which will include processes for testing students. The University is employing strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including contact tracing, monitoring systems and looking at data in the community and nationally, to see if a pattern is emerging so leaders can act accordingly. Testing is developing rapidly and the plans for the return to campuses will be guided by the best available information at the time.
The University is asking students, prior to returning to campus, 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. If test results are positive, we strongly encourage individuals to not return until they have quarantined for 14 days. Further, as a precaution, the University encourages all students who can to self-quarantine prior to arrival.
Who will make sure that students follow guidelines not only in the classroom, but elsewhere? Are there penalties for anyone who does not follow guidance?
By following University and CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, students can have a direct impact in achieving an extended return to learning and living on campus this fall. Upon returning to campus, students will be asked to take personal responsibility both on and off campus and to sign a pledge to help uphold the health of the community by following University guidelines. Mask wearing will be expected in class, and faculty members have discretion to make delivery modality adjustments if they have concerns about adherence to University expectations. 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.
What about the dining commons? How will students get their meals? How can you prevent the spread in the dining commons?
It is Penn State’s goal to make on-campus dining as comfortable and convenient as possible while maintaining the safety of our students and visitors. Here are the steps we’re taking to meet those goals:
a. Capacity in campus dining facilities will be limited, with seating and tables removed to encourage physical distancing, in accordance with governmental mandates and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
b. Mobile ordering and carryout options will be expanded to reduce patron wait times.
c. To enhance safety, the dining commons will not be offering self-serve options, and menu selections will be streamlined to increase speed of service.
d. In addition, there will be extensive and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and restroom spaces will be cleaned at least two times each day; these restrooms will be configured to encourage distancing among users.
If a faculty member is concerned for their health, can they decide to hold a class online or remotely on their own? What if a faculty member is, or lives with, someone who is immunocompromised?
The health of faculty, staff and students remains the University’s top priority in Penn State’s phased return to in-person instruction and other activities, and the University is mindful that individual circumstances may make some faculty members more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. There are processes and protocols being put in place to help support safe working environments across the campuses that will meet or exceed the expectations set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. These include enhanced cleaning protocols, face mask requirements in classes and other indoor spaces, social distancing, and testing and contact tracing. Discussions surrounding de-densifying classrooms and other spaces are ongoing, while a full review of all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs has been performed to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Room layouts are being reworked; larger and alternative spaces are being identified; room capacities have been revised with social distancing as the guide; and a distanced space for instructors has been established.
With regard to concerns about in-class teaching, Penn State will make adjustments for individuals who are immunocompromised, live with someone who is immunocompromised, or have some other special circumstance that should be considered. Safety is our first priority. Our expectation is that faculty who are able to teach will return to the classroom as part of a flexible approach to in-class instruction that will include remote learning, too, in order to lower density and create physical distancing. We are asking faculty members to develop their teaching plans for doing this in the fall, and to discuss them with their unit and department leads.
Where can faculty go for answers to their specific questions?
A new forum for accepting questions from faculty related to Penn State’s plans for a return to classrooms in the fall has been launched by the Provost’s Office as an additional avenue for communicating suggestions, concerns and updates. Faculty with questions can log on at https://tinyurl.com/On-Campus-Questions and submit their inquiries, which will be answered on a regular basis with available information and published as part of a regular email update for all faculty. Questions may be submitted anonymously, or submitters may wish to include their name and department or college.
What will a phased return look like for employees?
As always, the safety of faculty, staff, students and the community is our top priority. A return to work for employees is being approached deliberately and is being organized into phases. Some employees have continued to work on campuses to perform mission-critical work and others have begun returning in stages, including researchers who are unable to perform their work from home. Moving forward, other employees whose work must be completed on site will continue to return to campuses, including those preparing facilities for the return of students. Employees who are currently telecommuting but whose work can be more effectively performed on campus will be the next group to return to on-site work.
As the semester unfolds and the University continues to monitor the situation, employees who can effectively work remotely will be the last group to return to their workspaces, if needed. More information will be shared with individual units and employees regarding when they should expect to return to campus. In these cases, managers will be asked to develop plans that will facilitate the safe return of staff members, which will include social distancing, wearing appropriate face coverings, limiting the numbers of people in offices at any time and plans for additional cleaning.
Additional and up-to-date information related to return to work is available at https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/.
Because classes will be held on Labor Day, are all employees required to work on Labor Day? For those who would normally not work the holiday, will they receive a compensatory day? What about faculty?
Individual units will determine whether employees will be required to work on Labor Day based on their specific needs. Employees who work Labor Day will be compensated based on University policies or the appropriate collective bargain agreement.
When classes transition to remote delivery on Nov. 30, will all employees also shift to remote work, or will those who have returned to campus remain on campus to work?
Once classes transition to remote delivery, each unit leader will determine who needs to be on site based on work responsibilities and unit needs at the time. Employees should work with their direct supervisor to determine if they should continue to report to campus or if they will be able to work remotely.
What is the expectation for employees during Thanksgiving week, with students departing campus Nov. 20? Will the break operate like previous years with respect to holiday time off and campus closure?
There are no changes to the University holiday schedule. The University will continue to observe the staff holidays set in Penn State policy and respective collective bargaining agreements.
Will employees be asked to monitor their temperature every day before entering the workplace?
At this time employee temperature screening requirements will only apply in units with a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case. However, employees who self-monitor and who feel sick or have a fever should stay home. Additional protocols to uphold employee health include social distancing and masking expectations.
To learn more, visit https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/.
What is the University doing to reconfigure buildings and office spaces?
For the safety of all employees and to align with social distancing to maintain a minimum six feet of physical distance among employees, supervisors will be asked to identify strategies to reconfigure shared offices and seating, including moving furniture, removing excess chairs, and reconfiguring seating as appropriate. In cases where necessary, such as spaces where employees interact face-to-face with students and customers, plexiglass or other dividers may be installed. To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, common areas, and other shared locations across the campuses.
What if my workspace does not allow for social distancing? How can I be prepared?
Changes will be made to offices and workspaces, as needed, to support social distancing and prioritize employees’ health and well-being. For example, supervisors will be asked to identify strategies to reconfigure shared offices and seating or stagger work shifts, breaks, and arrival and departure times to align with social distancing and maintain a minimum six feet of physical distance between employees. Meetings should be conducted virtually when possible, and employees should avoid use of break rooms, kitchens and other shared spaces as a gathering area. To learn more, visit sites.psu.edu/returntowork/.
Will masks be provided to all employees (technical services, administrative, etc.)?
Yes. Employees will receive two cloth face masks. In accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all employees reporting to campus will be expected to wear masks — ideally cloth — while on campus, including outdoors, in hallways and in shared work areas. Masks should be worn at all times, even while practicing social distancing. Masks do not need to be worn when eating or drinking, when isolated in a private office or vehicle, or when use adversely affects an employee’s safety or health.
Will Penn State provide hand sanitizer, PPE, disinfecting wipes, etc. to supervisors/employees?
Yes. Face masks, soap and hand-sanitizer stations, disinfectant sprays and wipes will be available for all units to purchase through General Stores. The University also has procured several thousand additional hand-sanitizer stations, which will be placed in high-traffic areas.
Can I continue to work from home if I can accomplish my work remotely? What if I am immunocompromised or part of an at-risk population?
The health of faculty and staff members remains the University’s top priority as part of a phased return. If you have questions or concerns about your individual health circumstances, contact your supervisor and/or HR Strategic Partner. While there are processes and protocols being put in place to help support safe working environments across the campuses, those who can work effectively from home should continue to do so and will be last to return to campus. Phasing will prioritize those who have a need to perform work on-site.
What if I am feeling ill, who should I notify?
If you are feeling ill, you must stay home and/or leave work immediately. Employees should contact their health provider for guidance and notify their supervisors and follow normal unit-based notification protocols, so that their unit can begin a process to conduct contact tracing, notify individuals to monitor for symptoms, and begin temperature checks and health screenings. To learn more, visit sites.psu.edu/returntowork/. As a community, we must support each other by encouraging and following these guidelines, which are in place to protect each employee’s health and well-being.
What if one of my colleagues is sick?
As part of the planning process for a phased return to work, processes and protocols have been put in place to support supervisors and employees when a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19. Among these protocols, contact tracing will begin and employees and students who have been in close contact with the individual will be notified, asked to quarantine while the individual is tested (even if asymptomatic), and to begin monitoring for symptoms. The individual’s work area will undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfecting procedure in compliance with Pennsylvania Department of Health protocols.
What if I cannot find child care or my own child is still at home from public school (K-12)? What are my options?
Given uncertainties about the status of local schools for the upcoming school year, as well as the individual circumstances of employees, the University is asking supervisors to be flexible in working with employees who find themselves without child care. Telecommuting may be an option for employees currently working remotely who can continue to perform the duties of their jobs from home. Faculty members teaching in-person classes in the fall should discuss their circumstances with their academic supervisors. However, all employees need to have individual conversations with their supervisor/HR regarding their specific circumstances. For some employees, FMLA-Public Health Emergency leave also may be available. (Please visit https://psu.app.box.com/s/6i0inw2xdp8viazb75tz68hz4gwgnp1c for more information.)
What will happen if/when employees test positive?
Above all, the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff is the University’s top priority. Individuals who are sick, think they have been exposed to coronavirus, exhibit symptoms and/or test positive for COVID-19 are expected to stay home and/or leave work right away. Employees should isolate, monitor their symptoms and seek medical care as needed. The University is developing isolation guidance for employees. Employees should notify their supervisors, so their unit can begin a process to conduct contact tracing, notify individuals in the unit to monitor for symptoms, and begin temperature checks and health screenings for those who have been in contact with the sick individual. Policies and programs will be in place to support employees who are recovering from and/or caring for partners and family members with COVID-19. Most individuals who need to miss work due to COVID-19 to care for themselves or another individual are eligible to receive pay (up to certain maximums) for up to the first 80 hours, depending on full-time or part-time status, regardless of available sick time. Additional time off will be paid through accrued sick leave or short-term disability, if elected.
Where can employees go if they have specific questions?
Staff members who have questions or concerns regarding returning to work should visit https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/. The site includes FAQs and contact information for more specific questions.