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Penn State COVID-19 cases up by nearly 500 this week, Centre County tops 1,000 total

  • Min Xian/SpotlightPA
FILE PHOTO: Students wearing masks on Penn State's University Park campus.

 Min Xian / WPSU

FILE PHOTO: Students wearing masks on Penn State's University Park campus.

(University Park) — The number of COVID-19 cases increased to 708 at Penn State university-wide, as it updated its COVID-19 dashboard for the week of Sept. 4 to 10 on Friday. That’s a total of 493 new cases since last Friday’s update. While university President Eric Barron said administrators remain concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, the university is not moving to remote instruction.

“At this time, we do not need to change our current modality and hybrid on-campus approach,” Barron said in a release Friday.

“We remain concerned about spread, but at this time can continue on-campus activities as long as everyone takes this virus seriously and wears masks, socially distances and avoids gatherings,” Barron said. “We are looking at the data, by location, and trend lines daily, and we remain ready to initiate additional mitigation measures if needed and will hold individuals accountable for violating the University’s safety requirements.”

During the week of Sept. 4 to 10, 260 University Park campus students tested positive from on-demand testing. Twenty-eight students who had random screening testing received positive results. There are nearly 1,500 tests performed on UP students this week still pending results.

Surveillance testing among employees, which began Tuesday, returned one positive result among 129 tests performed in the time period, with 71 results pending. Penn State said tests administered later in the week are still pending results because they can take up to 48 hours to process. The university said those results will be included in next Tuesday’s dashboard update.

There was one positive on-demand result reported each for Abington, Altoona and Brandywine campuses for the past week.

The university said it has initiated its contact tracing process for all cases and the impacted individuals are in isolation either on campus, at home or in a suitable single-occupancy residence off campus.

“The University is monitoring the number of positive and negative cases — and other variables critical to our decision making — including isolation and quarantine capacity, hospitalizations, locational data, transmission from student cases to employees and community prevalence, to name a few,” Barron said.

The university decided last Friday to quarantine 144 students in the nursing cohort located in Hershey “out of an abundance of caution.” Six students in the cohort tested positive for COVID-19 last week and all nursing students in Hershey are waiting for testing to be completed, according to the release.

Director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Kelly Wolgast, said the isolation and quarantine space at University Park is currently at about half capacity.

“Prior to Aug. 30, 97 individuals have recovered and are moving out of the space on campus, and more students are expected to be released in the coming days,” Wolgast said. “In addition, the University has the capacity to open more isolation and quarantine space, if needed.”

One COVID-19 inpatient is currently at Mount Nittany Medical Center, according to the health system’s spokesperson.

Chief Medical Officer at Mount Nittany Health, Dr. Nirmal Joshi, told WPSU in a statement Thursday that the hospital is closely monitoring trends in the community.

“Despite recent increases in positive test results in Centre County, we have not seen an increase in patient hospitalization and are, in fact, seeing a drop in the average length of stay of those who have been hospitalized in the past two months,” Joshi said.

Centre County cases, which include Penn State results, reached 1,062 Friday, according to the state Department of Health.

The county saw a huge spike in cases Wednesday, when it added 184 new COVID-19 cases in one day. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office said this week that Centre is one of the two counties with “substantial” levels of community transmission of the coronavirus.

“Where we see the biggest increases are in colleges and universities. So we have seen significant increases in terms of the 19 to 24 age group,” Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said during a press conference Friday. “We have seen some young people that are congregating at parties or other types of activities and not necessarily wearing a mask, not practicing social distancing, not washing their hands, and that is contributing to that spread.”

In Pennsylvania’s northcentral region, which includes Centre County, nearly 66% of cases so far in September are among 19 to 24-year-olds. That’s up from about 7% in April.

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