Coronavirus FAQ: How will I know if a student in my class or lab tests positive?

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Penn State’s contact tracing process consists of multiple layers of outreach. This process prioritizes getting the COVID-positive individual into isolation. The first layer involves reaching out to the individual who has tested positive for COVID. Next, contact tracers contact those who have been identified by the COVID-positive individual as close contacts. Finally, contact tracers will notify others who might need to know, such as faculty members and instructors via an email from a “Student Support Services” address via our Maxient system. An example of the notification letter is provided here. We will continue to refine and improve this process as we learn more this semester.

The contact tracing process begins within 24 hours of the University learning of a positive case. Instructors and faculty will be notified that a student in their class has a health-related issue that necessitates their absence from class, unless that students has signed a release allowing for more information to be shared. It is possible, even likely, that a student who has tested positive will notify their professors before the University is able to do so. If a faculty member receives notification from the student prior to receiving formal notification from Penn State, they do not need to contact UHS. The good news is that if a student advises their faculty member directly, then the faculty member will have additional time to work with that student on any adaptions needed to help the student be successful in learning while in isolation or quarantine. Faculty will receive an email when the student can come back to class.

Later this week, the University will be rolling out electronic processes that enable someone to self-identify that they have tested positive for COVID or that they may be a close contact of a COVID-positive individual. This may shorten the amount of time that passes before a faculty member is notified of a positive case in their class.

The answer to this question, plus others, are available at

Last Updated September 04, 2020