Pa. coronavirus recovery: College kids drive uptick in COVID-19 cases

  • Laura Benshoff/WHYY

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania reported 1,258 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, and seven additional confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Monday.

The state has recorded a total of 145,063 cases and 7,869 confirmed deaths.

College kids drive uptick in COVID-19 cases

College students are driving big increases in COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania, particularly in north central and northeast regions. Health officials said Monday there are now more cases in young people than there are in the 50-64 and 65-and-over age groups.

In north central Pennsylvania, 19-24 year-olds made up 7% of cases in April. In September, that number rose to 69%. That region contains Centre County, the county where cases are growing most rapidly and where Penn State University is located. In the northeast, the jump was from 6% to 40% over the same period. Across the commonwealth, the increase in the share of coronavirus cases in young people is around 20%.

The most significant change between the spring and fall is that college courses are back in session and in-person, said Health Secretary Rachel Levine.

“College and university students are uniquely positioned now to help chance the course of the spread of this virus, by changing and adapting your actions,” said Levine. She urged students who test positive to isolate and who have been exposed to the coronavirus to quarantine.

Future of limits on social gatherings unclear

A waitress serves lunch to a customer at the Penrose Diner during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Matt Slocum / AP Photo

A waitress serves lunch to a customer at the Penrose Diner during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Officials in the Wolf Administration did not answer whether a recent federal court ruling means the limits on social gatherings are suspended.

“We have received the opinion, and the Office of General Counsel and all our attorneys are reviewing it,” said Secretary of Health Rachel Levine during a press conference on Monday. “I really can’t say more at any time.”

Earlier on Monday, federal district Judge William Stickman ruled that some of Governor Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions violated the U.S. constitution.

The case was filed on behalf of several counties, Republican lawmakers and business owners in the commonwealth.

Limiting large gatherings violates the 1st Amendment, wrote Stickman, and mandatory business closures violate the 14th Amendment. The governor’s stay-at-home order was another overreach. Two of those three mitigation efforts are no longer in effect, as businesses are allowed to reopen and the stay-at-home order was lifted.

Under current regulations, indoor gatherings of more than 25 and outdoor gatherings of more than 250 are prohibited.

The Wolf Administration plans to appeal Stickman’s decision and seek a stay to keep it from going into effect, reported PA Spotlight.

Stickman wrote that while these coronavirus mitigation efforts were made with “good intentions, that’s not enough reason to let them undermine the Constitution. “Liberties, once relinquished, are hard to recoup,” he said.

Even though most of these restrictions have been lifted, Stickman said they still deserve scrutiny because the governor has merely suspended them, and under emergency powers could try to reinstate them.


WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.

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