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Penn State To Drop Indoor Mask Mandate Completely, Roll Back COVID-19 Testing

Just about three weeks after announcing changes to its indoor masking guidelines, Penn State is removing requirements entirely, the university announced early Tuesday morning.

Starting on Wednesday, March 23, masks won’t be required in most classrooms, labs, or other “academic spaces.” Over spring break, Penn State removed masking requirements for indoor spaces like dorms, dining halls, on-campus gyms, marketplaces, sporting events, and classrooms used for extracurricular activities.

“With transmission levels low in much of the commonwealth and the high vaccination rates of our campus communities, we believe we can safely alter our masking and testing requirements at this time,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a media release. “We will continue to provide voluntary testing to students, as well as contact tracing and quarantine and isolation space as needed; and any individual who wishes to continue wearing a mask indoors is encouraged to do so.”

Faculty can still individually require students to wear masks in classes, Penn State said. So can employees who work in individual offices.

Masks will still be required where mandated by law, including particular workplaces, public transportation services, or health care settings. Penn State said masking will also remain needed in some in-person human subject research labs and at its College of Medicine to support patient care.

Penn State’s policy change comes after the Centers for Disease Control 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.

Pennsylvania’s county-by-county community levels on Monday, March 21

For now, Centre County is operating within a “low” community-level threshold. Crawford County is currently the only Pennsylvania county observing a “medium” community level.

Penn State will continue offering walk-up COVID-19 testing at the White Building, although unvaccinated students and employees are, for now, no longer required to complete weekly testing. The university will continue conducting wastewater testing to potentially identify COVID-19 transmission around campus.

The White Building will offer testing on the following schedule this spring:

  • Noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays & Tuesdays
  • 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays & Fridays
  • Closed on Saturdays

Currently, 92% 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 63.2% vaccination rate.

COVID-19 spread in Pennsylvania has greatly declined in recent weeks. On Monday, the state reported fewer than 1,000 new positives for the 10th time in 11 days. Centre County logged seven new cases, marking a single-digit increase for the second straight day and the 10th time in the last month.

Due to “anticipated low usage of voluntary and asymptomatic testing,” Penn State said it will stop regularly updating its COVID-19 Dashboard beginning on April 7. Archived data will remain available.

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 ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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