Skip to content


At Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the safety of our students, patients and employees is of paramount importance.


Symptomatic or Exposure Testing

Students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19 are expected to take the following steps:

  1. A non-high-risk exposure does not require a student to quarantine. Mask appropriately for activity and location for 10 days.
  2. If a student experienced a higher risk exposure, i.e., prolonged time period, not wearing all recommended PPE or no PPE, or close household exposure, testing is recommended as follows:
    • Rapid test on day 1, no sooner than 24 hours after the exposure. If positive, follow guidance below. If negative, no restrictions on activities, follow strict masking and retest day 3.
    • Rapid test day 3. If positive, follow guidelines. If negative, no activity restrictions, strict masking.
    • Rapid test day 5. If positive, follow guidance below. If negative, no activity restrictions.
    • Testing guidance is updated regularly. Please view the downloadable PDF file or the testing information on this page for the most up-to-date information.

Jump to topic


Testing guidance Expand answer

Updated Testing and Mask Guidance

Revised January 2024

This is an accessible version of the PDF download.

Exposed to COVID-19

  • Wear a high-quality mask any time you are around others indoors because you can share the virus with others even if you do not have symptoms
  • You may attend class during this period
  • Wear the mask for 10 full days as you can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed
    • Day 0 is the day of your exposure to someone with COVID-19
    • Day 1 is the first full day after your exposure
  • Be on the lookout for symptoms suggestive of COVID
    • If you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested for COVID, staying home until you know the result
  • Even if you do not have symptoms, get tested day 6
  • If you test negative, continue taking precautions including wearing a high-quality mask indoors through Day 10
    • You may discontinue masking and isolating if you remain symptom-free and without a positive test after Day 10

Positive COVID-19 test

If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others wear a mask in your home because you are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. You do not need to retest for COVID at any time. You will be permitted to follow classes/mandatory sessions remotely.

  • If you had no symptoms, you may end isolation and return to educational responsibilities after Day 5 but must take precautions, as in part c, below
    • Day 0 is the day you were tested
    • Day 1 is the first full day following the day you were tested
    • If you develop symptoms within 10 days of when you were tested, the clock restarts at day 0 on the day of symptom onset
  • If you had symptoms,
    • Day 0 of isolation is the day of symptom onset, regardless of when you tested positive
    • Day 1 is the first full day after the day your symptoms started
    • and your symptoms are improving after day 5, you may end isolation if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication)
    • and your symptoms are not improving after day 5, continue to isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving
    • and moderate illness (you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing), you need to isolate through day 10
    • and severe illness (you were hospitalized) or have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through day 10 and consult your doctor before ending isolation.
  • Whether you had symptoms or had no symptoms, until at least Day 11, you must
    • Avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.
    • Remember to wear a high-quality mask when indoors around others
  • After you have ended isolation, if your symptoms are improving, and if you have no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications), you may remove your mask earlier than Day 10 if you have two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart


  • Remember to adhere to the absence management policy should an absence from class be necessary.
  • If you have continued symptoms beyond day 10, please contact a medical provider, or contact them earlier if you are experiencing severe symptoms. NOTE: medical provider documentation is necessary for absences longer than 10-days.
  • If you have symptoms and test negative for COVID-19, masking is strongly encouraged to minimize the chance you will spread a respiratory illness to others
  • Home COVID-19 tests are available for free from the federal government and can be delivered through the mail upon request.
  • You are not required to report COVID-19 exposure or infection to Student Health or Student Affairs. However, you are required to follow these guidelines, and to notify your course supervisor in the event of your need to miss educational responsibilities due to illness or isolation.
  • COVID-19 vaccination is not required but it is very strongly recommended
  • This chatbot, supported by the CDC, can help you determine if you need to isolate or take other precautions.
  • Recommendations by the CDC will serve as the general guiding principles for when there is a question about recommendations. This guideline is derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines on Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 and Exposure to COVID-19, as accessed January 16, 2024.