Required COVID testing of unvaccinated full-time faculty, staff begins

August 30, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Required weekly COVID-19 testing will begin this week for full-time Penn State faculty and staff who have not shared with the University that they are fully vaccinated. Required testing for part-time unvaccinated employees is scheduled to begin later in September.

Full-time employees who are in the required testing pool were notified via email last week that they will be required to test weekly throughout the semester unless and until they report in the University’s Salesforce Health Cloud that they are fully vaccinated. Penn State continues to strongly encourage students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 with the first available option as soon as possible. The University previously announced the required testing plans for students who have not uploaded proof of vaccination.

Full-time faculty and staff who are working on campus and have not shared with the University that they are vaccinated for COVID-19 will receive an email each Wednesday, beginning Sept. 1, from PSUCOVIDtesting@psu.edu. The email will notify them that they must get tested within seven days and will include campus-specific instructions on how to get tested.

At University Park, employees will take a rapid COVID-19 test at the Pegula Ice Arena or White Building and are encouraged to visit the testing site as soon as possible after receiving their email. There is no appointment required. Employees are encouraged to test in the morning to avoid the busiest testing times and should plan to be at the test site for 20-30 minutes. Positive test results will be confirmed with a subsequent PCR test.

All required faculty and staff testing at Commonwealth Campuses and Dickinson Law, or for those who work at off-site locations, will be conducted using mail-in COVID-19 test kits from Vault Health, a third-party vendor. Email notifications will include a link to order a test kit. All completed tests should be mailed or returned to a campus drop box within 24 hours of completion.

Employees who test positive must enter isolation and will not be permitted to return to on-site work until they have completed an isolation period that meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. COVID-19-positive staff employees will be expected to use accrued sick, vacation or personal time (if available) or be placed on an unpaid leave status for the absence to cover any time off until they are released to return to work by Penn State Occupational Medicine. Employees may work remotely during the isolation period (with approval from their manager) if their symptoms are mild and their position allows. Contact tracing staff will communicate with all individuals identified as close contacts, regardless of their vaccination status. Instructors, faculty members and researchers are expected to work with their academic unit leader to determine how to best cover their responsibilities if they test positive and enter an isolation period.

Staff who are represented by a union should check with their Human Resources representative to determine testing obligations. Employees who have tested positive through the University in the last 90 days for COVID-19 and have informed Occupational Medicine are omitted from testing.

Employees who are working remotely 100% of the time can be exempted from testing and should complete the Full Remote Employee Form to request and exemption. Employees who need to request a temporary exception to the weekly testing should speak with their unit’s Human Resources strategic partner.

Staff testing compliance

Staff members who fail to fulfill their testing obligations will be subject to sanctions. Supervisors will be notified when a staff member fails to complete the weekly testing requirement and will first discuss the testing requirements with the employee. Employees who continue to disregard their testing requirements will be sent home and will be required to use paid vacation or personal time, if available, or will be placed on unpaid leave until the test is taken. Upon the employee’s return to on-site work, steps will be taken to document the violation using HR78, Staff Employee Failure to Meet Acceptable Standards of Performance, in consultation with their unit’s Human Resources strategic partner.

In cases of repeated noncompliant behavior, managers should discuss continued use of HR78 in consultation with their Human Resources strategic partner, which could lead to termination of the employee.  

Instructor, researcher and faculty member testing compliance

A separate compliance and sanction process is in place for instructors, researchers and faculty members who do not comply with required testing. Academic unit heads or their designees will first have a conversation with the instructor, researcher or faculty member to remind them of the applicable policy, offer to provide any needed assistance to comply with Penn State’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies, and be reminded of the process that will occur as a result of continued noncompliance.

If an instructor, researcher or faculty member continues to fail to comply with required testing, the academic unit leader will discuss the situation with their Human Resources strategic partner and consult with the vice provost for faculty affairs, as needed, to decide how best to address the noncompliance. Sanctions may be imposed on an instructor, researcher or faculty member.

If an instructor, researcher or faculty member persists in their refusal to comply with required testing, the academic unit leader will again discuss the situation with their Human Resources strategic partner and consult with the vice provost for faculty affairs. The instructor, researcher or faculty member in question will be removed from their courses, placed on leave and prohibited from working on campus for the duration of the leave. Decisions to place an instructor, researcher or faculty member on continuing unpaid leave must be reviewed within seven days by a subcommittee of the Faculty Affairs Advisory Council, composed of two faculty members and one administrator charged by the vice provost for faculty affairs. Expectations, process and sanctions for graduate students serving as teaching assistants or instructors-of-record will be consistent with Graduate Council policies.

For full-time instructors, researchers or faculty members, substantial noncompliance may lead to disciplinary action up to and including initiating termination proceedings consistent with Academic Policy AC70 or contract termination. Faculty members may appeal sanctions in accordance with Academic Policy AC76 or request a review of sanctions from the vice provost for faculty affairs.

Vaccinated employees

Vaccinated employees will not be included in weekly testing notifications. All employees may seek testing through their health care provider or other local COVID-19 testing options. In addition, employees working on campus at any Penn State location 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.

The most up-to-date information on COVID-19 testing requirements and the University’s continued response to the pandemic can be found on virusinfo.psu.edu.

Last Updated September 13, 2021