Campus Life

University aligns COVID-19 quarantine guidance with CDC, PA Department of Health

Timeframe for identifying close contacts also changing to match CDC guidelines

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Penn State has updated its quarantine guidelines for community members who are exposed to COVID-19 and for those returning from travel outside of the commonwealth.

Students and employees who believe they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or who have been identified as close contacts through contact tracing must quarantine for a minimum of seven to 10 days, down from 14 days under the previous guidance. In line with CDC and state Department of Health guidance, individuals now have the option to end their quarantine after 10 days without testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring, or after seven days with a negative test on or after day five of quarantine and if they have no symptoms. Students should call Contact Tracing and Student Support Services at 814-863-8800 and employees should contact Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 if they develop symptoms while in quarantine.

Also in line with CDC guidelines, the University is now defining a close contact as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative time of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period while that individual may have been infectious. The infectious period begins 48 hours before the person began experiencing symptoms (or 48 hours before the test date for asymptomatic individuals) until the time the individual was isolated. Previously, close contacts were defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 10 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick (or when they tested positive, if asymptomatic) until the time the patient was isolated.

“Providing the option to shorten the quarantine period will hopefully increase compliance with quarantine and contact tracing efforts, which play a critical role in stopping further spread of the virus,” said Darcy Rameker, director of Penn State Contact Tracing and Student Support Services. “Even with this change, the CDC continues to endorse a 14-day quarantine when possible to cover the full incubation period of the virus, and community members are still encouraged to quarantine for two weeks if they can. In some circumstances a medical provider will not recommend a reduced quarantine time, and students and employees will be expected to follow the guidance from their provider.”

Students and employees who meet the criteria to end quarantine early must continue to monitor themselves for virus symptoms for the full 14 days after their last exposure, while also following all masking and physical distancing protocols, and should immediately self-isolate and contact a health care provider if they show symptoms. At University Park, students who are symptomatic can schedule an appointment with University Health Services by using myUHS online. Students at other Penn State locations should contact their campus’ health care services.

Travel quarantine

The revised quarantine guidance also applies to a travel order issued by Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, which requires travelers over age 11 entering Pennsylvania from locations outside the commonwealth, including Pennsylvanians who are returning home, to have a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken within 72 hours before arriving or place themselves in quarantine for 10 days without testing or seven days with a negative test on or after day five of quarantine.

Any member of the University community embarking on personal travel outside of the commonwealth for more than 24 hours is required to follow the state travel order; however, individuals traveling to and from the commonwealth for the purposes of work are exempt from the order. Further details about the travel order and exemptions can be found on the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Information for Travelers webpage.

Additional information about University-affiliated domestic travel and international travel is available on the University’s official coronavirus information website.

Last Updated January 14, 2021