Penn State releases requirements for returning international travelers

February 29, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has released new guidance and requirements from University Health Services for travelers who are returning from countries with elevated Travel Health Notices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to novel coronavirus. This includes members of the Penn State community who are returning from Italy and South Korea, which have been placed on the restricted list for University-affiliated travel.

The below document details Penn State’s requirements for those that are returning from CDC “Level 3” countries. Also, information and guidance is provided for those who have traveled from a CDC “Level 2” country, for those that may feel sick, may be traveling in other areas, information from University Health Services for home quarantine, guidance for household members, and general hygiene and prevention.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and the requirements are likely to change. For the most up-to-date information about Penn State’s actions related to the global outbreak of novel coronavirus, visit https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo/. It is critical that individuals continue to check for ongoing updates and guidance.

The health and well-being of Penn State students, faculty, staff and visitors is the University’s highest priority. These actions are being taken to protect the health of the Penn State community and to assist in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus on and near our campuses.

Penn State requirements

Consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for travelers returning to the United States from China, Penn State is requiring a 14-day quarantine period for travelers from CDC Level 3 countries before they return to campus. At this time, these countries include: China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

Students and employees who traveled to one of these countries must isolate themselves from others in their place of dwelling while monitoring for signs and symptoms of illness as described below. Of note, many students may be returning to a home away from campus. However, students and their families should follow the same recommendations and advice included in this document.

If you are returning from a country with a CDC “Alert Level 2” or “watch” level you should follow many of the below recommendations — including maintaining vigilant hygiene practices, self-monitor for symptoms and assess temperature twice per day for 14 days after return.

If you feel sick

If you spent time in a CDC “Alert Level 2” or “Warning Level 3” country during the past 14 days and feel sick with fever or cough or have difficulty breathing:

  • Take your temperature.
  • Seek medical advice. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%-95% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Prevention is the best way to limit the spread of disease. If you find that you are not feeling well after returning, then please seek medical care as described. Otherwise, quarantine yourself for the specified time so that if you do become ill, the risk of spread of your illness to others is minimal.

University Health Services guidance for home quarantine

  • Stay home except to get medical care — as noted above, call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • Wear a facemask when you are around other people or pets.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands afterward with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer (see above).
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer; use soap and water preferentially if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items.
  • Clean “high-touch” surfaces daily with a household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Monitor your symptoms and if they develop or worsen then call your health care provider BEFORE seeking in-person care.

Guidance for household members during quarantine

  • Help with basic needs in terms of food, medications, and other personal needs.
  • Stay in another room or be separated from the patient as much as possible; use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible.
  • Prohibit visitors without an essential need from coming into the home.
  • Household members should care for any pets.
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer; use soap and water preferentially if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • The patient and household members should wear disposable facemasks when in the same room; throw masks away after using them.
  • Avoid sharing household items with the patient.
  • Clean “high-touch” surfaces with a cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly: use disposable gloves while handling; wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer after removing gloves.

Returning from a country without a coronavirus warning

At this time, domestic travelers and travelers to countries that do not have an elevated CDC Warning Level do not need to take any action other than monitoring their health and practicing good hygiene and prevention. However, if you begin to have symptoms it is important to follow up with your health care practitioner.

Upcoming international travel

Penn State has placed CDC “Warning Level 3” countries on the restricted travel list for University-affiliated student travel. Faculty and staff travel to these countries also has been restricted and would require approval from the provost or university risk officer. 

Further, the University strongly discourages personal travel to these countries. Travelers to these countries will be required to quarantine themselves in their dwelling for 14 days before being permitted on campus.

Before booking travel and departing the country, travelers should check the CDC website for the latest threat level rating for their destination. The CDC website also includes answers to frequently asked questions regarding travel abroad. This is a rapidly evolving situation with government policies and recommendations changing as the situation changes. Travelers should exercise caution when traveling abroad as quarantines and re-entry restrictions, particularly for non-U.S. nationals, could be implemented as the situation evolves.

While traveling domestically or abroad, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol; soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty. It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

Domestic travel recommendations

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, but individual risk is dependent on exposure. For members of the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to the virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. If you travel domestically, take the following routine precautions:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty. It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

Upon returning from domestic travel, if you feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, particularly within 14 days after you left, you should:

  • Seek medical advice — call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel on public transportation while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Hygiene and prevention

To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and other respiratory infections, the CDC recommends the following prevention measures:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    •  CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Last Updated March 02, 2020