A conceptual illustration of the coronavirus as if it were observed from a microscope is seen.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Guide to returning to campus

This site serves as a resource for Penn State College of Medicine faculty, staff, students and postdocs as the college prepares to ramp back up its on-campus efforts. This site will serve as the most up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19.

Current status: COM Phase 4

  • All on-site personnel must follow safety guidance including universal masking.
  • No more than 80% of a department or institute may be on site at any one time, with physical distancing requirements in place that also limit the number of people in any lab, conference room or classroom.
  • Observational human-subjects research may take place in certain circumstances, with appropriate limits to capacity in spaces such as the Clinical Research Center.
  • Anyone whose work can be completed remotely should still be working off-site.
  • All seminars, group meetings and one-on-one meetings should be conducted remotely if at all possible.
  • Animals may be ordered without preapproval from Comparative Medicine, but those with large orders should still contact the animal facilities to ensure that animals can be accommodated in the vivarium.

Working on campus in Hershey: What you must do

For all employees

The following guidelines apply to all College of Medicine employees planning to return to on-campus work.

To ensure a safe and successful transition back to campus, employees and their managers should be prepared to adhere to the following safety precautions before returning to work on campus.


Employees are required to wear a mask at all times while on campus, except when eating or drinking. Review the mask guidance here.

A face shield should also be worn when working within six feet of another person. See face shield guidance here.

Daily screening

Screening of all College of Medicine faculty, staff, students and postdocs for symptoms of and possible exposure to COVID-19 will be conducted on a daily basis, and is required.

  • Upon arrival each day, all college personnel must enter through either the College of Medicine entrance near the Dean’s office or the BMR Building entrance.
  • Doors will be locked and require badge access to enter the building. Even if the door is unlocked from another employee/learner, each person must still swipe their badge.
  • Once in the lobby, temperature will be checked using a non-contact thermometer and those entering will be asked a set of screening questions about symptoms related to COVID-19, namely whether they have:
    • New cough that is not attributable to another medical condition
    • New muscle aches that are not attributable to another medical condition or another specific activity
    • New throat pain not attributable to another medical condition
    • New shortness of breath not attributable to another medical condition
    • New loss of taste or smell
  • A different-colored sticker will be placed on your badge each day, indicating you successfully completed the screening procedure.
  • Screening at the COM entrances will be available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Outside of these hours, COM personnel should enter through the North lobby entrance of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
  • Those experiencing new onset of symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 (fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath or diarrhea), or who have a household member who is being tested or has tested positive for COVID-19, should not come to work and should follow normal department call-off procedures, and should contact their primary care provider. Additionally, faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows need to call the Employee Health COVID-19 hotline at 717-531-4208 (on weekends, leave a message and an Employee Health nurse will return the call). Graduate students should report symptoms to Student Health at 717-531-5998 and their PI.

Special screening notes

  • COM employees working in other campus buildings, such as the Hershey Center for Applied Research (HCAR), must follow this procedure at the COM entrance before going to their worksite.
  • Any non-College of Medicine employees using the college’s main entrance or Biomedical Research Building entrance must also follow these procedures, regardless of their screening requirements.

Online check-in

To facilitate compliance with University requirements for on-campus work, each person working on-site is expected complete the short form at med.psu.edu/checkin before being screened. Provide your name, work email address and any location where you expect to spend more than 10 minutes throughout the day. This is best done via smartphone, as submitting the form generates a confirmation screen that you will be asked to show at the screening station.

After completing the form, you’ll receive a confirmation email. If you spend more than 10 minutes in any additional location over the course of the day, use the link in that email to submit an updated check-in before leaving work.

For convenience, the form link can be saved to the home screen of any iPhone/iPad or Android device by following these instructions.

For iPhone/iPad:

  • Launch Safari and load med.psu.edu/checkin.
  • Tap the Share button, which looks like a square with an arrow rising from it. Look for it on the bottom of the screen on an iPhone; near the top on an iPad.
  • Tap "Add to Home Screen" in the Share menu.
  • Name the shortcut as desired, then tap "Add." The shortcut icon now appears on the phone or tablet screen.

For Android:

  • Launch Chrome and load med.psu.edu/checkin.
  • Tap the menu button and choose "Add to Home Screen."
  • Name the shortcut as desired, then tap "Add." The shortcut icon now appears on the phone or tablet screen.
An image shows a phone screen with a large checkmark, name and timestamp. The name displayed is Nittany Lion.
The confirmation screen following a successful check-in form submission looks like this.

Closing the form: After showing the confirmation screen, employees should close that tab in their phone's browser. Failure to do so can result in being checked inadvertently the next time the browser app is opened.

Those without smartphones should plan to complete the form before arriving on campus. Print the confirmation screen and bring it to show the screeners; if printing is unavailable, or if you do not have the ability to complete the form at home, you will be asked to sign a log at the screening table and to complete the form from your office workstation if necessary.

Thermal temperature scanners

Thermal temperature scanners have been installed at the College of Medicine's main and Biomedical Research Building entrances and at the Academic Support Building entrance to assist in temperature checks for all employees.

This is part of the systemwide rollout of thermal temperature scan kiosks. The College of Medicine will continue to have staffed screening stations in place at these entrances. In addition, a scanner will be installed at the University Fitness Center in the near future to assist with this effort.

A temperature equal to or greater than 100 degrees is considered high - a designation supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Employees and students should inform their supervisor and Employee Health if they detect a high temperature. All employee and student screening practices (including thermal temperature screening kiosks) will use 100 degrees as a new screening criteria.

Thermal temperature screening kiosks display "temperature normal" or "temperature high" based on the 100-degree mark, without the display of temperature.

All faculty, staff and students must continue to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and complete on-site temperature screening for each scheduled day of work before reporting to their work location.

A man wearing a facial mask leans forward toward a digital tablet screen on a stand.
Penn State College of Medicine student Alain Kameni has his temperature checked at the screening area in the lobby of the college in September 2020.

Surveillance testing and contact tracing

The College of Medicine is a partner with Penn State in its comprehensive strategy for surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals and contact tracing, which is part of the full COVID-19 “Back to State: Health and Safety Plan."

Surveillance testing of faculty, staff and students has started on those who have returned to working on campus. Approximately 1% of the faculty, staff and students at the College will be randomly selected each day, seven days a week, to participate in surveillance testing, at no cost to the individual.


Employees/learners must wear their ID badge with colored screening sticker at all times. It will be required for entry into the building to allow for contact tracing should there be a COVID-positive case in the College of Medicine. Please note that doors from the hospital to the College will require badge access for entry.

Requirements for managers

In addition to these measures, managers must complete one or both of the following two tasks for their employees returning to campus, depending on the type of work being performed. Managers should also consult the Managers' Guide to Returning Faculty, Staff and Students to the Workplace developed by College of Medicine Human Resources and the COVID-19 Assessment/Reporting Instructions for Supervisors (both available in Box; Penn State Access ID login required).

For those engaged in research

All research labs or research support offices with personnel working on campus must post the occupancy of their room or lab. There should be a new schedule posted weekly on the door or bulletin board next to the lab indicating individuals in the lab.

Labs are no longer required to put this information in Box.

For all employees

The supervisor of any College of Medicine employee who will be working on campus, including those engaged in research, must complete the University Return-to-Work Authorization process.

This process requires the supervisor to describe the work to be done and safety measures that are in place and is overseen by University Human Resources and is integral to the College of Medicine's participation in the University's COVID-19 surveillance testing program.

It only needs to be done once, when an employee is ready to return to campus for the first time.

Important: Follow these instructions to ensure the form is completed correctly (in Box; Penn State Access ID login required).

Complete the process here
(Penn State Access ID login required)

On-campus safety guidance

Follow universal mask policy

Masks must be worn at all times when working in the College of Medicine, unless eating or drinking. (See mask policy.)

An icon shows the outline of a mask.

Practice social distancing

Keep 6 feet between people whenever possible - especially when unmasked for eating and drinking.

A graphic shows the outline of two people, spread apart by an arrow. The number 6 appears above the arrow.

Practice good hand hygiene

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when entering a room and before and after touching your mask.

Two circles are shown side-by-side - the first depicts a pair of hands and soap bubbles; the second says 20 seconds and shows one-third of a clock shaded in.

Stay safe during meals

  • Stagger break and meal times.
  • Avoid sitting directly beside or across from others.
  • Clean or disinfect tables before and after eating.
  • Wash or sanitize hands before removing mask.
  • Store mask in clean place while eating.
  • Immediately after eating, wash or sanitize hands, then put mask back on.
An icon shows a crossed knife and fork.

Stay safe in elevators

  • Wear mask at all times.
  • Limit 1 to 2 people in elevator. Take stairs or wait for next elevator.
  • Practice social distancing while waiting for elevator, and when inside.
  • Avoid touching your face after pushing the button.
  • Wash with soap or sanitize hands after leaving elevator.
An icon shows up and down arrows inside a circle.

Approved locations for breaks

Eating and drinking in labs, hallways, Harrell Health Sciences Library and public areas such as lobbies is prohibited. The following locations are approved for meals and breaks:

  • Look for outdoor or unoccupied areas for meal and rest breaks.
  • Indoor and outdoor seating is available at the Rotunda Cafe. Some seats have been placed out of service to maintain social distancing.
  • The tent outside the cafeteria is available for employee lunch breaks between noon and 2 p.m. from June 1 through Aug. 3, with the exception of June 26, July 14, July 28 and July 31, when it is otherwise reserved.

Cleaning guidance

For shared spaces

The College of Medicine offers a set of standard operating procedures for the use of common rooms, shared equipment within departments and other spaces occupied by multiple people.

See shared facility SOPs

For labs

Specific guidance is available for laboratories and research facilities regarding approved COVID-19 disinfection methods researchers can follow for their high-touch work areas and equipment.

See lab cleaning guidance

More resources