Coronavirus FAQs: Specifics from the University's fall 2021 plans

Effective immediately, all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear face masks while inside buildings on Penn State campuses. Credit: Stephanie Swindle / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State on Tuesday (Aug. 3) announced the University’s fall health and safety plans and adjusted its fall masking requirement on Wednesday (Aug. 4) in response to the rapidly changing status of the pandemic in Pennsylvania. The following FAQs are being shared based on commonly asked questions regarding the fall plans for the University community:

Q: What is the University’s masking requirement for the fall 2021 semester?

A: As planned, Penn State faculty and staff should continue to prepare for a return to on-site teaching and working this month in accordance with the University’s current health and safety guidelines. Effective immediately, all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear face masks while inside buildings on Penn State campuses. This applies to classrooms, meeting spaces and other shared public indoor areas. More information on this change is available on

Q: Is Penn State only requiring COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated students who are living in on-campus residence halls?

A: No. The University has a comprehensive testing strategy in place for the fall. Students living in on-campus residence halls on any campus who have not been fully vaccinated and/or have not shared their vaccination status with the University by Aug. 9 will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival to their campus. In addition, the University will conduct regular testing throughout the fall semester of the population of students living both on and off campus who have not shared with the University that they have been vaccinated.The University also will require regular testing of employees who have not shared with the University that they have been vaccinated. Details on the employee testing requirements will be announced soon, but only after consultation with Faculty Senate leadership and other employee leadership. 

Q: What happens to individuals who do not comply with the required testing?

A: Students both on-campus and off-campus who have not shared with the University that they have been vaccinated will be notified when they have to test and there will be significant consequences for noncompliance. Consequences for noncompliance include a process of warnings and sanctions up to and including suspension. 

Q: How can faculty with health needs request adjustments to their in-person teaching responsibilities?

A: The University understands that some individuals may have health-related needs that require adjustments for the fall and put a process in place beginning in July for faculty to request an adjustment to their in-person teaching responsibilities. Due to the changing nature of the pandemic recently across the country and in Pennsylvania, the University is reopening the process for faculty work adjustment requests for one week, effective immediately. Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Remote work adjustments will be considered for individuals who are immunocompromised or live with someone who is immunocompromised, individuals with children who are unvaccinated and have a condition that puts them at high risk for complications from COVID-19, and individuals who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated. Faculty members who wish to request a work adjustment should visit the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs website and look under the “Instructional Guidance” section for information on the adjustment process and the Faculty Work Adjustment Request Form.

Q: Why hasn’t Penn State implemented a vaccine mandate?

A: Each state and each institution is unique, so responses to the pandemic naturally vary. While the University is not currently requiring vaccinations, Penn State is not impartial when it comes to getting vaccinated. The University’s stance is that everyone who can get a vaccine should do so as soon as possible to attain high vaccination rates on all Penn State campuses.

President Barron made clear his view that the educational and incentives-based approach the University has taken, and positive survey data, together with the systematic tightening of monitoring, testing and mitigation measures we announced, particularly requirements for non-vaccinated individuals, represent the right approach for Penn State to help keep the community safe.

During the Aug. 3 Town Hall, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, President Barron — and others — have made it clear that the University's COVID-19 Operations Control Center monitors developments daily and the University can adjust its approach as needed. "Off ramps” include a wide range of measures that can and have been implemented successfully when needed, from canceling or restricting attendance at sporting and other events, indoors or out, to switching to remote.

Last Updated August 11, 2021