Contact tracing process and support outlined for students, employees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To support the health and well-being of the University community this fall, Penn State has implemented a contact tracing process in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Health as part of a layered tracing and testing approach for students and employees across all campuses.

The University’s Contact Tracing and Student Support Services program is directed by the COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC) and operated centrally by the Office of Student Affairs, with support and representation from the Commonwealth Campuses. 

Students who test positive or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should immediately contact University Health Services, their campus health center, or primary care provider. Students who test positive ​outside of a University testing process should notify Contact Tracing and Student Support Services by completing this form. Faculty and staff who test positive will need to report their positive status to their supervisor, contact Occupational Medicine, and self-isolate off campus.

Contact tracing process

The following steps outline the contact tracing process and what students and employees can expect:

  • Step 1: Penn State will identify individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 through University testing processes or referrals.
  • Step 2: Staff will initiate contact with positive students and employees.
  • Step 3: Contact tracers will communicate with employees and students identified as close contacts about quarantine expectations and support.
  • Step 4: Case managers will reach out to students in isolation/quarantine to provide support and will notify faculty and instructors if a student is not permitted to attend class.

To support the privacy of those involved in the contact tracing process, the identity of the student or employee who tested positive or is presumed positive will not be shared with close contacts without permission. The University will provide confidential notifications to their faculty, instructors or supervisors to enable accommodations and support. Instructors and supervisors will not share the identity of the individual with classmates or colleagues. Beyond these notifications, the University will only share information about an individual’s health status as needed and as appropriate if there is a concern for the safety of the campus community.

Further information on contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and communication with faculty and instructors can be found in this Penn State News story.

Additionally, this Penn State Student Affairs COVID-19 support website includes: 

The contact tracing plan, which was first shared during a town hall in July and detailed in August, is part of a comprehensive strategy that focuses on testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, a daily symptom checker for students and employees, ongoing surveillance of data trends, and predictive modeling to inform the University’s return to campus and future steps. Penn State's full "COVID-19 'Back to State' Health and Safety Plan" is available online. 

“Contact tracing supports virus case detection and is designed to help prevent future outbreaks. By partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and dramatically expanding our University operation, we are taking a unified approach that is consistent for all students, faculty and staff,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “With existing processes and mechanisms in place, the University is equipped to act swiftly to identify and contact individuals, as well as directly provide guidance and support to students and employees across our campuses who are impacted.”

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including frequently asked questions and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit

Last Updated September 22, 2020