UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With cases of COVID-19 declining on Penn State campuses and across the state and nation, University officials are adjusting Penn State’s indoor masking policy to no longer require face masks be worn in many indoor common spaces on campuses in counties designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to have low or medium COVID-19 Community Levels beginning Monday, March 7.
Based on the new CDC guidance, at this time, all Penn State campuses except for the College of Medicine and the Schuylkill campus will adjust their masking requirements. At this time, the College of Medicine will continue the mask mandate in alignment with Penn State Health to support patient care, and the Schuylkill campus will continue to require masking in all indoor locations.
The masking requirement will remain in effect in classrooms, labs and other academic and creative spaces on all campuses, regardless of CDC COVID-19 Community Level designation, due to high-density congregation. Face masks will continue to be encouraged in all other common indoor spaces. Additionally, masks will continue to be required where mandated by law, regulation or rule — including under guidance particular to individual workplaces or health care settings, COVID-19 testing centers and public transportation.
On Feb. 25, the CDC announced new, county-by-county COVID-19 Community Levels, as “a new tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data.” Levels can be low (green), medium (yellow) or high (orange), and are based on the number of new COVID-19 cases in each county as well as new hospital admissions and hospital capacity.
Green counties: CDC recommendations call for individuals to stay up-to-date on their vaccinations and to get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Yellow counties: The recommendations advise those who are at high risk for severe illness to talk to their healthcare provider about their individual need to wear a face mask.
Orange counties: CDC recommends all individuals wear a mask indoors.
“Our community really stepped up in January and February, embracing our mitigation measures to help us be successful in maintaining in-person classes and activities, allowing our campuses to thrive,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “In consultation with our COVID-19 operations team, and recognizing that all but one of our campuses (Schuykill) are in counties currently designated by the CDC to have low or medium COVID-19 Community Levels, we have determined that we have reached a point where we can allow each individual to choose to wear a mask and no longer mandate that they be worn indoors, except in our academic and creative spaces. We are hopeful the diligence of our community in mitigating this disease will continue throughout the spring semester.”
The general indoor masking requirement at the Schuylkill campus will continue until the designation for that county changes. Penn State officials will continue to closely monitor changing pandemic conditions nationally and in the areas surrounding Penn State campuses. The University will alter plans, including the reinstatement of indoor masking mandates, if necessary.
Continued COVID-19 mitigation
Regardless of a campus’ COVID-19 Community Level, individuals who have not indicated to the University they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must still test weekly for the virus. University contact tracing will continue, and quarantine and isolation space for students will remain available.
Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to campus and should stay home. Faculty and staff should seek out symptomatic testing through their health care provider. At University Park, students living on campus or in the local community who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to schedule testing appointments with University Health Services (UHS) via myUHS. Students living on or near other Penn State campuses should seek symptomatic testing via their campus’ health services or a local provider.
Kelly Wolgast, director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, reaffirmed that since the beginning of the pandemic, Penn State has not seen any indications of virus transmission in classrooms or workspaces.
“Our campuses are highly vaccinated communities and, along with declining case numbers, we are seeing hospitalizations decline as well at our local health care facilities,” Wolgast said. “Even with this shift in the masking mandate, individuals who feel that masking is something they wish to continue can of course continue this mitigation strategy.”
Employees at Penn State who work in their own individual offices may request that visitors wear masks while in their private offices, and the University asks that community members cooperate with these requests.
Additional research protocols for mask wearing will be determined and disseminated by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research.
The University continues to strongly encourage students, faculty and staff to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, including booster doses. Students at University Park, Commonwealth Campuses and Dickinson Law who have received their booster shot can upload their vaccination records through myUHS. Faculty and staff who have received their booster shot can upload an image of their COVID-19 vaccination card into Penn State’s Salesforce Health Cloud, a secure online platform for collecting and storing health data.
For the latest information on the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu.