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Penn State Total COVID-19 Cases Top 1,100, But University Leaders Say Key Metrics “Fairly Stable"

Socially distanced dining hall tables at Penn State University Park campus
Min Xian
The total number of COVID-19 cases at Penn State reached 1,145, as the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday.

The total number of COVID-19 cases at Penn State reached 1,145, as the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday. 

Penn State says, for the period of Sept. 11 to 14, 100 University Park campus students tested positive from on-demand testing. Zero positive results have been reported from the 773 random surveillance tests conducted during that time. The university said in a release that the numbers “are evolving as many test results are still pending, which will then be validated and uploaded.”

Starting Sept. 8, Penn State went from sending out random surveillance tests to Vault Health to doing them in-house in the university’s own Testing and Surveillance Center. At the Center, tests are processed in pooled batches of five at a time. The university said that since this testing is now at a population level, students will not be given their results. But if a pool tests positive, those students will be instructed to get retested. 

The Shenango campus added one positive on-demand test result during the time. 

The update included hundreds of additional test results for the week of Sept. 4 to 10. It brought the total to 570 positive on-demand testing results and 76 positives from random student testing on the University Park campus for that week.

For that week, both the Altoona campus and the Behrend campus in Erie each had three new positives. Hazleton also added one case. 

There are no new positive results among employees on any campuses.

University President Eric Barron told the Faculty Senate Tuesday that although the growing numbers are concerning, the university is “doing reasonably well” since fall semester began four weeks ago.

“We worry about this a great deal,” Barron said during Tuesday’s meeting. “But I just want you to know it's not all about the numbers. It's about hospitalizations, quarantine and isolation space and community transmission. These are the signs of our level of control on what's going on.”

He said these factors “remain in our favor” and on-campus activities can continue.

The university said 477 students have completed their isolation period, and contact tracing protocols are in place to identify and quarantine both those who tested positive and those who came in contact with them. There are 59 people in quarantine and 108 in isolation, according to the dashboard.

Barron also told the Faculty Senate that sending students home isn’t a good option and that health officials oppose the possibility.

“We know we have certain constraints that the students were going to be here, off campus, no matter what, because they had leases they cannot get out of,” he said. “And therefore…[having] class and having more control and having a full up testing and tracing, quarantine and isolation effort is a better way for us to to manage what would be there, regardless of what decision that we might make.”

University Provost Nick Jones said he hopes the university will be able to increase the frequency of dashboard updates, as the process of gathering and reporting data from multiple sources becomes more streamlined. 

He also emphasized that the number of people in quarantine and isolation have been “fairly stable” and said the behavior of students, employees and community members will be “the thing that makes a difference.”

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.
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