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Penn State To Begin Spring Semester In Person As Planned

Penn State will begin its spring semester in person as previously planned, the university announced Thursday night.

In a statement, Penn State said its leadership felt current COVID-19 conditions don’t require a switch to online learning yet.

“Our students, faculty and staff have a very high vaccination rate, we are testing weekly those who are not vaccinated and we are continuing to require face masks to be worn indoors,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “With these measures in place, together with hospitalization data and what we are learning about omicron, we believe we can safely, but carefully, return to on-campus classes and activities as planned.”

To help minimize potential COVID-19 spread, Penn State is encouraging students and employees to order free mail-in testing kits through Vault Health. Any student or employee can currently order up to 12 kits for at-home use.

Additionally, Penn State’s White Building will open a drop-in testing site during move-in weekend from January 7 to 9.

Earlier this month, Penn State said it fully intended on starting the spring semester in person, although university officials said they were carefully monitoring an uptick in COVID-19 cases across the country. Penn State won’t update its own COVID-19 Dashboard with recent data until the spring semester begins, leaving the exact extent of COVID-19’s spread at its campuses unclear for now. The virus’s omicron variant was detected on campus earlier this month.

Penn State’s worries for the spring semester originated through locally high COVID-19 hospitalizations and the omicron variant’s growing dominance. As of December 28, Mount Nittany Medical Center is treating 44 hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged between 22 and 88 years old, the majority of whom are not vaccinated. Centre County’s only hospital treated 76 COVID-19 inpatients at one point in December — its highest mark at any point since the pandemic began.

About 89.8% of students and 90% of employees at University Park are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the university’s dashboard. Penn State employees are required to get vaccinated as the university complies with a federal mandate.

Students who haven’t submitted proof of vaccination will need to continue complying with weekly COVID-19 testing throughout the spring semester. Penn State said it’s currently adjusting quarantine and isolation policies more closely align with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this month, Penn State extended its indoor mask-wearing mandate through the spring semester. The requirement applies to all, regardless of vaccination status.

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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 with distinction 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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