Students encouraged to seek on-campus testing if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms

October 01, 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. — The start of fall and the onset of colder weather signifies the beginning of cold and flu season, which could be even more difficult than normal this year with the prospect of cold and flu viruses circulating at the same time as the coronavirus.

As part of Penn State’s multi-pronged coronavirus testing approach, any student who feels sick and has symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or is concerned about COVID-19 exposure, is strongly encouraged to stay home and contact University Health Services (UHS), their campus health center, or a primary care provider immediately to discuss testing options.  

Each Penn State campus has a plan for testing symptomatic students, either on campus or via a local provider. Commonwealth Campus students can find the location, hours and contact information for their on-campus health center by clicking here.

At University Park, all students can schedule an appointment online through myUHS or by contacting the main UHS appointment line at 814-863-0774. The UHS Advice Nurse also is available 24/7 to students at all Penn State campuses by calling 814-863-4463. Only students with a scheduled in-person appointment are allowed inside the Student Health Center.

“When students schedule their appointment either online or by phone, they will be directed to the appropriate testing site based on the types and severity of their symptoms,” said Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services.

Those with mild symptoms like congestion, sore throat or fatigue, or students who are concerned about possible COVID-19 exposure, will be scheduled for testing in Eisenhower Parking Deck. Students with more severe symptoms will be scheduled for a telemedicine appointment with a clinician, after which they will be directed for testing to Eisenhower Parking Deck or the newly expanded negative pressure suite in the Student Health Center.

Students who seek care at UHS will be billed via their insurance for any evaluation or testing that’s provided, but Oliver-Veronesi said the University is committed to providing COVID-19 testing to any student who needs it, regardless of their financial situation.

“Penn State wants to make sure that all students who need testing have access to it, and we’ve made arrangements with our testing partners to assist students with covering the costs of the testing, if needed,” she said.

UHS uses Quest Diagnostics as its reference lab for testing, and results are typically available in about 48 hours. UHS clinicians review the results and send them to students via a secure message in myUHS. Students also are encouraged at the time of testing to register with MyQuest, where they can access their results directly from the lab. Based on availability from the manufacturer, UHS also has access to the Abbott rapid ID NOW COVID-19 test, with results typically available within a few hours.

Due to the fact that students seeking on-demand testing are either symptomatic or believe they have been exposed to the virus, Oliver-Veronesi said that students are requested to isolate while awaiting their test results. Penn State has set aside 400 single rooms with private bathrooms in three Eastview Terrace residence halls at University Park as quarantine and isolation space. These rooms are available to all students living on campus as needed and to off-campus students based on availability. Commonwealth Campuses that have residential living options also have identified various residence halls or other suitable facilities for student quarantine or isolation.

“Once results are available, students either remain in isolation if they have a positive result and proceed into the contact tracing process, or if it is negative, they are able to return to their residence,” Oliver-Veronesi said. However, students who are identified as a close contact through contact tracing must complete the entire quarantine period regardless of their test result, as symptoms typically develop two to 14 days after exposure.

Oliver-Veronesi said it’s important that students are aware of the on-demand testing options that are available to them, and to reach out as soon as possible after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

“If students have symptoms or are concerned about exposure to COVID-19, they have several options for care at all of our campuses,” she said. “If you are not feeling well, don’t hesitate to come see us at UHS. We are just a few clicks or a phone call away.”

Last Updated October 19, 2020