Coronavirus: Feeling sick? Here's what to do

February 12, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If you’re feeling sick and are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, loss of smell or taste, coughing, trouble breathing or other symptoms — you should stay home and seek medical care.

What should I do if I’m showing 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.

Penn State employees who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or think they’ve been exposed should notify their supervisor, leave work immediately or remain at home, and contact their personal health care provider for a phone assessment. Your supervisor will contact Occupational Medicine at or call 814-863-8492 on your behalf. Occupational Medicine will follow-up with additional information, based on your situation. Occupational Medicine also will contact your supervisor and the University’s Absence Management unit on your behalf to inform them about when you will be out of the office and when you may be able to return. 

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 offer 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?

Students and employees who believe they have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 or who have been identified as close contacts through contact tracing must quarantine for a minimum of seven to 10 days. The CDC provides guidance on when to start and end quarantine based on various scenarios. 

Faculty and staff should quarantine at home. Students living on campus will quarantine in space identified on their campus. 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.

Click here for additional information about the University’s quarantine requirements.

If I don’t have symptoms or think I may have been exposed, can I be tested for COVID-19?

Contact your health care provider to discuss testing options. At the University Park campus, Penn State is offering walk-up testing to all undergraduate and graduate students. At the Commonwealth Campuses, testing processes are defined for each campus and are typically administered by the local health center or other designated area. Specific details and hours can be obtained on campus through the campus Student Affairs office.

Employees listed in the University’s Return to Work database may order a Vault Health mail-in test kit. University Park employees may also utilize the walk-up testing. However, they are strongly encouraged to use the at-home, mail-in test kits, when possible.

All other employees should contact their primary care provider to review testing options.

What should I do if I test positive?

Students who test positive or are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact University Health Services, their campus health center or primary care provider. Students who test positive outside of the 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 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 are 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 the onset of symptoms and must have an improvement in symptoms and be fever free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication before return 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.

Click here for additional information about the University’s isolation requirements.

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


Last Updated February 14, 2021