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Penn State To Remove Most Indoor Masking Requirements Starting March 7

As COVID-19 transmission slows down across Pennsylvania, Penn State will no longer require indoor masking for most campus settings, the university announced early Friday morning.

Starting on Monday, March 7, Penn State will remove most masking requirements but continue enforcing them inside classrooms, labs, and “other academic and creatives spaces” at all campuses. The policy change should remove mask requirements for dining halls, on-campus gyms, marketplaces, sporting events, and classrooms used for extracurricular activities.

Masks will still be required where mandated by law, including particular workplaces, public transportation services, or health care settings.

“Our community really stepped up in January and February, embracing our mitigation measures to help us be successful in maintaining in-person classes and activities, allowing our campuses to thrive,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a release. “We are hopeful the diligence of our community in mitigating this disease will continue throughout the spring semester.”   

All campuses but Penn State’s College of Medicine and Schuylkill campus will adjust some of their masking requirements on March 7. The move comes after Penn State said it would adjust masking mandates for campuses in counties designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to have “low” or “medium” COVID-19 community levels.

The CDC’s community levels across Pennsylvania as of Thursday, March 3

Indoor masking requirements at Penn State’s Schuylkill campus aren’t expected to change until local COVID-19 transmission levels ease up. The College of Medicine, meanwhile, is continuing its masking requirement to support patient safety.

On Sunday, Penn State said it would consider modifying its masking requirements to more closely align with new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, the CDC made changes to its community level metrics, which now factor COVID-19 hospitalizations, local hospital capacities, and cases into the equation. The CDC now says indoor masking generally isn’t recommended or required for counties within “low” or “medium” thresholds.

Penn State will continue requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students and employees. The university will also continue offering on-campus COVID-19 quarantine and isolation spaces.

Currently, 91.9% of students and 86.3% of employees at University Park are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Penn State’s COVID-19 Dashboard. Both rates easily surpass Centre County’s 63% vaccination rate.

“Our campuses are highly vaccinated communities and, along with declining case numbers, we are seeing hospitalizations decline as well at our local health care facilities,” said Kelly Wolgast, the director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center. “Even with this shift in the masking mandate, individuals who feel that masking is something they wish to continue can of course continue this mitigation strategy.” 

After reaching record highs in December and January, new cases and hospitalizations have quickly dropped in Centre County and across Pennsylvania, hitting their lowest levels since early August. University Park reported just 52 cases and a 0.9% positivity rate over the last week, according to Penn State’s data.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, the State College borough announced it will no longer enforce its masking ordinance either.

For more information on Penn State’s latest 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 with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email (mattdisanto86@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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