Penn State to ease masking and distancing measures, offer vaccination incentives

Incentive program launches for students and employees who get vaccinated and share vaccination status with the University
Extension vaccine program

Penn State is launching an incentive program for students and employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19 and share their vaccination status with the University.

Credit: Pixabay

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has announced plans to transition its masking and physical distancing requirements on June 28 to more closely align with changes recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health that relax COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals. The changes will apply to all Penn State campuses except the College of Medicine. Students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated — and share their vaccination status with the University — as soon as possible. 

Data on vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff are needed to inform the University’s decision-making and its COVID-19 management plan. With this information, University officials will be able to better assess vaccination rates across Penn State and modify approaches, if needed.

Current masking and distancing measures remain in place through Summer Session I

The University’s current requirements — that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, are expected to wear masks and practice physical distancing inside buildings and on public transportation — remain in place until June 28. In addition, 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.

Measures relaxed for vaccinated individuals beginning June 28

Starting June 28, fully vaccinated individuals at Penn State will no longer be required to wear face masks indoors, and the physical distancing and outdoor masking requirements will be lifted for all individuals. The use of face masks will still be required for all people while using public transportation, in accordance with CDC guidance, and in some additional settings such as when visiting on-campus health care facilities and when conducting in-person research involving human subjects.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has recently indicated it will lift the state masking mandate on June 28 or sooner if 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated. However, the latest CDC guidance that eliminates masking or physical distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals notes exceptions, “including local business and workplace guidance.”

In alignment with this CDC guidance, Penn State will continue to require non-vaccinated individuals to wear masks inside University buildings at all times after June 28.

While classrooms will begin to be reconfigured on June 28, students who are not vaccinated must continue to wear masks. Employees who are not vaccinated are also expected to continue to wear masks inside campus buildings. If this is not possible, employees should speak with their supervisor to develop an individual plan.

“Penn State has continued to closely monitor the pandemic and carefully consider federal, state and local guidance,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “Beginning the transition toward the end of June to align more closely with the CDC’s and Pennsylvania Department of Health’s guidance provides Penn State time to prepare, and give faculty, staff, students and visitors the opportunity to get their vaccinations now, if they have not already done so. I strongly urge everyone in our community to get immunized as soon as possible and to share their proof of vaccination with the University so we can better assess the vaccination rates across our population.”

Vaccine incentives

To encourage students and employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19, Penn State is offering a number of incentives to students, faculty and staff who receive a vaccine and share their vaccination status with the University.

From June 7 to Aug. 23, students and employees who have shared proof of their vaccination status with the University will be eligible for a weekly drawing for prizes, including cash payments, gift cards and autographed footballs. Separate drawings will be held for students and employees. Each week, drawings will be held for the following prizes (subject to taxes for employees):

  • $1,000 payment
  • $100 gift card to Barnes & Noble (four winners per week)
  • a football signed by Penn State Football coach James Franklin

After providing proof of vaccination (see information in the next section about uploading vaccine records), students and employees who wish to participate in the incentive program must also complete an online form to become eligible for the weekly drawings. Students who have previously submitted their proof of vaccination and wish to opt into the incentive program also must complete this form.

It’s important to note that all students and employees at all campuses who are already vaccinated for COVID-19 — not just those who get a vaccine in the future — and share their vaccine status with the University will be eligible.

In addition, fully vaccinated students may potentially be exempt from certain health and safety protocols such as testing and quarantine, in accordance with CDC guidelines for vaccinated individuals.

Sharing vaccination status

Students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to share their vaccination status with the University after they receive their final dose — either the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Students at University Park, Commonwealth Campuses and Dickinson Law can upload their vaccination records through myUHS.

Starting tomorrow (June 2), employees and World Campus students can provide their vaccination status to the University using Salesforce Health Cloud, a secure online platform for collecting health data.

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

Vaccine availability

Penn State is strongly encouraging all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as they are able to do so. Vaccines are widely available across the commonwealth at this time and many locations do not require an appointment, making it easy and convenient to get a shot.

“At this time there is no better or easier way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 than to get vaccinated,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of the University’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center. “The vaccines are scientifically proven to be effective. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it takes time for the vaccine to be fully effective. There’s a three- or four-week wait between the two-dose vaccines and then another two weeks after the second or single dose before you are considered to be fully vaccinated. For this reason, we encourage students to get vaccinated as soon as possible so that they are fully immunized before the start of the fall semester.”

University Health Services will be holding a vaccine clinic at University Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 28 and 29 in Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center. More information will be forthcoming.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health website features a map of vaccine providers that includes hospitals, urgent care centers, doctor’s offices and pharmacies, and also includes specific support and guidance for college students with information about how students can receive their second vaccine dose once they leave campus. Penn Staters in other U.S. states and territories should use the CDC’s vaccine finder tool to find a vaccination site near them.

International students who are planning to receive a vaccine in their home country are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine that is available based on their location. Students who receive a different vaccine than the ones listed above should also upload their record through myUHS. The number of doses required to be fully vaccinated may differ based on the vaccine type.

The latest vaccination information for University community members is available on Penn State’s virus information website.