Penn State Now Requiring Indoor Masking At All Campuses

As COVID-19 transmission levels in Pennsylvania rise, Penn State is now requiring indoor mask-wearing for all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status.

According to the university, the policy change comes as nearly half of the counties home to Penn State campuses are experiencing “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Newly announced Penn State guidelines said indoor mask-wearing orders would return at campuses where transmission was identified as “high” (red) or “substantial” (orange).

“Penn State is taking this proactive measure to protect the health and safety of our campuses and help mitigate the spread of this virus within our community,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “As we continue to see daily increases in COVID-19 cases, particularly the Delta variant, our current outlook warrants this protective step. I continue to look forward to a return to robust, in-person experiences, and hope this is a reassuring adjustment for students, faculty and staff. To have a successful semester, it’s going to take all of us doing our parts to support the well-being of our entire community.” 

Should transmission levels lower across the state, Penn State’s mask-wearing policy could be rescinded.

While mask-wearing is required, all on-campus activities will continue, according to the university. Penn State’s policy change doesn’t impact return-to-work plans for faculty and staff.

While it’s in effect, indoor mask-wearing is required in environments like classrooms, common areas, and indoor athletic events. Dining halls can continue offering indoor seating, and dorm residents won’t need to mask up in their rooms.

Penn State said it will provide another policy update if and when “the current COVID-19 surge subsides.”

“We are taking this proactive step as one critical measure to support the well-being of our community, along with initiatives like the comprehensive testing strategy for students and employees we announced yesterday,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center. “We continue to stress the importance for all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

In a town hall Tuesday, Penn State said it would begin using CDC transmission levels to determine masking policies.

Additionally, the university confirmed it still won’t require COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees. However, submitting proof of vaccination to the university by August 9 could exempt students from most COVID-19 testing procedures this fall.

Students can submit proof of vaccination through myUHS’s online portal. Employees and World Campus students should use Salesforce Health Cloud.

According to newly released survey data, the majority of Penn State student and employee respondents are already vaccinated against the virus.

About 77% of surveyed students said they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims. The survey, sent out to more than 87,000 Penn State students, garnered an overall 42% response rate and a 54% response rate at University Park.

Meanwhile, 92% of employee respondents said they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Employee surveys were sent to more than 35,000 faculty and staff across Penn State’s entire network. About half responded, garnering a 56% response rate.

“We’re mindful of the fact that this survey may have a response bias built into it, but we still think this is a valuable data point,” Sims said, noting the optional survey for students closes on Friday, August 6.

This is a breaking news post. We’ll update our story with more information as it becomes available.

For the most up-to-date information on Penn State’s COVID-19 policies, visit its dedicated website.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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