Penn State details May and summer semester COVID-19 mitigation plans

May 06, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. ­­– Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC) has developed a comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation strategy for the transitional month of May and the summer 2021 semester for all campuses that includes vaccine consideration, masking, testing, contact tracing, and quarantine and isolation.

“While the May and summer testing strategies will look different from spring 2021 and fall 2020, testing is still a critical component of our mitigation strategy as the pandemic remains complex and ever-changing,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of the COCC. “We are optimistic for the future with the widespread rollout of vaccines and urge students, faculty and staff to book their vaccine appointments as soon as they are able. It takes our entire community working together and taking proper health precautions to be successful in our efforts.”

COVID-19 Vaccine

All Penn State faculty, staff and students are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and information on how to obtain a vaccine is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website. The University is building incentives for students and employees to be vaccinated, and more information will be forthcoming. Students at University Park and all Commonwealth Campuses can upload their vaccine information now into the MyUHS portal and are encouraged to do so as soon as their vaccine series is complete. Information on how employees can submit vaccine status will be announced later in May.


The University will amend its masking policy to align with recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that relax some outdoor masking recommendations for vaccinated individuals. However, masking requirements will remain in place throughout the summer and will be considered for fall dependent on recommendations from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Additionally, the new CDC guidance calls for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to continue to wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, so masking will remain required at May commencement ceremonies. 

COVID-19 Symptomatic Testing

Throughout May and summer, students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, even if fully vaccinated, should seek symptomatic testing through a University or local health care provider.

Required COVID-19 testing for students in residence halls

On campuses that have more than 25 students living in residence halls, students living on campus who are not fully vaccinated will be required to complete a COVID-19 test weekly starting after summer session begins and continuing through the summer. These students will receive a weekly reminder to complete the test at a designated site on their campus. More information is forthcoming on this test protocol for fully vaccinated students who have provided vaccination status to the University. 

Required COVID-19 testing for employees

There will be no required testing for employees at any campus over the summer. 

Voluntary testing for students

Unless they have been vaccinated, regular use of voluntary testing is strongly encouraged for any student living near any Penn State campus or employees that are working on campus in May and throughout the summer.

  • At University Park, drop-in testing will be available in May at the Pegula Ice Arena and the Hintz Family Alumni Center for all students living on or near campus. The Hintz Family Alumni Center test site will close for the summer in June. 
  • At all Commonwealth Campuses, student tests will be distributed by the student health center or designated office, or ordered through the mail via the Vault Health mail-in test kit. Students should contact their campus student health center or office of student affairs for more information. 

Voluntary testing for employees

  • All employees may seek testing through their health care provider or other local COVID-19 testing options.
  • At any campus, employees listed in the University’s Return to Work database may order a Vault Health mail-in test kit.
  • Employees working on campus at University Park also may utilize the drop-in testing available on campus. However, they are strongly encouraged to use the at-home, Vault Health mail-in test kit as the best test option.

Contact Tracing and Quarantine and Isolation

Penn State’s contact tracing program will continue through May and the summer semester, and quarantine and isolation space will remain available at campuses housing students. 

Quarantine testing

Asymptomatic students who are not fully vaccinated and quarantining because they have been identified through contact tracing as a close contact of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 will be able to receive a COVID-19 test during day 5-7 of their quarantine. Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asymptomatic, unvaccinated students with a negative test on or after day five of quarantine will be permitted to end their quarantine after seven full days. Instructions for testing will be communicated directly to quarantined students. Fully vaccinated students will receive instructions from contact tracing if they are identified as a close contact. 

Health and safety

As Penn State’s absolute priority is the health and well-being of its students, employees and local communities, the University is preparing for a variety of scenarios if circumstances or guidance from the government and public health authorities requires a reassessment of testing plans before the start of the summer and/or fall semesters. The University is currently reviewing the latest announcement from Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health that all COVID-19 mitigation orders except for masking will be lifted on May 31. Any resulting changes to the University’s summer plans will be announced before the end of May. 

More information on testing is available on the University’s official coronavirus information website

Last Updated May 13, 2021