Coronavirus: What should I do if I feel sick?

August 21, 2020

Editor's note: As of Oct. 19, the COVID-19 testing boxes have been moved from Eisenhower Parking Deck to the Student Health Center at University Park. Students with a scheduled appointment can access the testing boxes via the second floor entrance on the building's south side, facing the Millennium Science Complex. Students will be directed to the appropriate testing location when their appointment is scheduled. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To protect your health and the health of others as the fall semester begins, Penn State students and employees should continue to take precautions against COVID-19, such as wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face, and avoiding contact with those who are sick.

If you find yourself feeling sick, you may be understandably anxious about what your symptoms could mean. If you have symptoms of a fever, loss of smell or taste, cough, trouble breathing, or other symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and seek medical care.

The following offers additional guidance about what to do if you’re sick and how to protect others in your home and community:

What should I do if I’m exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or think I’ve been exposed?

Students who are exhibiting symptoms or think they’ve been exposed should stay home and contact University Health Services, their campus health center or primary care provider.

Any Penn State employee who develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or thinks they’ve been exposed should notify their supervisor and leave work immediately or remain at home. Faculty and staff should contact their personal health care provider for a phone assessment or use Penn State Health OnDemand. In addition, employees must contact Occupational Medicine if they are self-quarantining, exposed to or develop symptoms of the virus.

Why do I need to call my provider first?

Make sure to call before you visit a doctor’s office, health center, urgent care center, or hospital emergency department, given current demands on the health care system and also for the protection of staff and other patients. Health care providers may provide specific instructions about how to come to their facility and where to go upon arrival to minimize the risk of exposing others, or depending on your symptoms, may give you self-care advice that you can follow at home. If your provider recommends treatment, when traveling to the health care facility:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Avoid contact with others as much as possible.
  • Do not take public transportation.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not the hands) when coughing or sneezing.

When do I need to quarantine?

Since symptoms typically develop between two to 14 days after exposure, students and employees who believe they have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and/or been identified during the University’s contact tracing process must quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with the individual, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Faculty and staff should quarantine at home, students living on campus will quarantine in space identified on their campus, and case managers will evaluate quarantine needs for students living off campus as part of the contact tracing process. During quarantine, you may or may not develop symptoms of COVID-19. Employees who do experience symptoms should contact their health care provider; students can contact University Health Services, their campus health center, or their primary care provider.

Can I be tested for COVID-19?

Contact your health care provider to discuss testing options. At University Park, UHS is offering two options for COVID-19 testing to all undergraduate and graduate students. Students with more mild symptoms or who are worried about exposure can be tested in the testing boxes located in Eisenhower Parking Deck. Students with more concerning symptoms will be directed to a designated area within UHS for evaluation and testing. Both testing options require an appointment which can be scheduled online through myUHS or by calling the UHS Nurse Advice Line. At Commonwealth Campuses, students can contact their campus health center or primary care provider.

What should I do if I test positive?

Students who test positive or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should immediately contact University Health Services, their campus health center, or primary care provider. Students who test positive outside of a University testing process should also reach out to Contact Tracing and Student Support Services at 814-863-8800.

Faculty and staff who test positive will need to report their positive status to their supervisor, contact Occupational Medicine, and self-isolate off campus.

To limit community spread and transmission, the University’s contact tracing process will focus on identifying, notifying and monitoring students and employees who came in close contact with a student or employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or is presumed positive, while they were infectious.

When do I need to isolate?

Students and employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are presumed positive will need to isolate for at least 10 days since symptom onset and must have an improvement in symptoms and be fever free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication before returning to on-campus work or class. Students and employees who are experiencing symptoms and awaiting test results will need to isolate immediately.

Faculty and staff should immediately leave work and isolate at home. Penn State Absence Management will answer questions and assist employees with additional needs.

Students living on campus will isolate in space identified on their campus. Students living off campus will be accommodated with isolation space to the extent that the University is able if they are positive or presumed positive. Commuter students will be asked to isolate at home with support provided by the University. Penn State will work to accommodate students with extenuating circumstances.

How can I care for myself at home?

When caring for yourself at home, monitor your symptoms carefully and if they get worse, call your health care provider. Be sure to get rest, stay hydrated, cover your cough and sneezes, and wash your hands often. As much as you can, stay in a separate room away from other people; avoid sharing items like dishes, towels and bedding; and use a separate bathroom. Wear a face mask if you need to be around other people in your home. Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces daily such as doorknobs, handles and tabletops.

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including an extensive FAQ and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit virusinfo.psu.edu.

Last Updated October 19, 2020