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COVID-19 Contingency Resources

Guidelines for conducting research on campus
during COVID-19 restrictions

Updated August 5, 2021

Following Penn State’s announcement about easing masking and distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals, here are some guidelines on how the new measures apply to research groups in the Eberly College of Science

For more information, please refer to the University’s COVID-Related FAQs for Research Administration and Researchers.


Between June 1 and June 28

•    All researchers approved in the Return to Work database and students approved in the departmental database can return to research and use their offices. Please follow existing lab safety plans and sanitizing/disinfectant protocols and work with your facilities coordinator as you reoccupy spaces.

•    Anyone not yet approved to return to campus needs to submit requests and have them approved before returning to campus. 

•    Meetings of less than 10 people can be conducted in person. 

•    All researchers—regardless of vaccination status—must wear masks and practice physical distancing (minimum six feet) at all times while in buildings, with the exception of single occupants of private offices with the doors closed. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing while outdoors. Vaccinated individuals, however, are not currently required to wear masks or practice physical distancing while outside.

•    Occupancy of lab and office spaces should continue to consider specific lab arrangements and ensure that occupants maintain a working distance of at least six feet. Researchers may work closer than six feet for brief periods (i.e., less than 10 minutes). If a procedure requires two people to work closer than six feet, they must have approval from their department head.


Between June 28 and August 4

•    PIs in the Return to Work database can transition their research groups to pre-COVID densities. 

•    Anyone not yet approved to return to campus needs to submit requests and have them approved before returning to campus. 

•    All researchers (regular employees*, postdocs, and students) who have not been fully vaccinated will still be expected to wear masks inside University buildings at all times.

•    Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear masks indoors (except in certain settings, such as when visiting on-campus health care facilities and when conducting in-person research involving human subjects).

•    The physical distancing and outdoor masking requirements will be lifted for all individuals.

•    This system will remain in place until at least August 16; continued use after August 16 is not yet determined.

*Note: This applies to regular employees only. Teamsters Local Union No. 8 negotiated a separate masking agreement for technical service employees in accordance with changing local, state, and federal guidance. As a result, there will be slightly different guidelines for different populations of the University.


Effective August 4

Due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 conditions around the country and in Pennsylvania, effective August 4, Penn State will require all students, faculty, staff and visitors—including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated—to wear masks indoors at all campuses.

At this time, all on-campus activities will continue as regularly scheduled with required indoor masking in place. This shift to masking does not change the return-to-work process for faculty and staff. The new measure applies to all Penn State campuses except the College of Medicine, which has already implemented specific guidance for its community.

Community members will be required to wear masks indoors, including in all classrooms—regardless of size—as well as in meeting rooms, common areas in residence halls, and at any indoor events. All individuals on campus will be permitted to eat in designated food service areas, and students living in residence halls will not be required to wear a mask in their living space. In addition, vaccinated employees with individual offices are not required to wear a mask in their personal office. In accordance with CDC guidance, all individuals must wear a face mask while using public transportation. 

Students, faculty, staff members and visitors should plan to wear masks indoors on campus until the current COVID-19 surge subsides; the University will provide an update when masking is no longer required.



All Penn State students and employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and share their vaccination status with the University. Despite the COVID-19 surge as the Delta variant spreads, studies suggest that the currently available vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness in those exposed to the variant. 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 very high vaccination rates on all Penn State campuses.

Students and employees who have not informed the University that they have been fully vaccinated by August 9 will be subject to required testing during the fall semester. Students at University Park, Commonwealth Campuses and Dickinson Law can upload their vaccination records through myUHS, and employees and World Campus students can do so through Salesforce Health Cloud.

Students who are not yet vaccinated are strongly encouraged to begin the process as soon as possible before arrival at their campus for the fall semester. Students may begin the vaccination process at home by receiving their first dose and bring their vaccination card to their campus, where they can receive their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from a provider on or close by campus.

A step-by-step guide to help the University’s employees with submission will be available as well via the COVID-19 Vaccination web page on the Return to Work website.

In addition, the University has compiled answers to frequently asked questions, including on the testing strategy for students and employees. For more information, visit the University’s Virus Information website.



After registering their vaccination status, students and employees who wish to participate in the University's incentive program must also complete an online form to become eligible for the weekly drawings, which will continue through August 23.