Penn State is urging students to get tested for COVID-19 before the university transitions to fully remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester on November 20.
In a webinar Tuesday, the director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Kelly Wolgast, said free departure testing for all students is voluntary but highly recommended. More than 6,000 University Park students have already scheduled one.
“We believe that offering this voluntary, free, easily accessible, walk-up type of testing at the Bryce Jordan Center here at University Park and at the spaces at the campuses really is the most practical and effective strategy at this time,” Wolgast said.
In response to why exit testing isn’t mandatory, Wolgast said flexibility is key.
“It allows students to self-schedule. So they can do it in conjunction with what their class schedule is or with their life schedule,” she said. “And they can do it when they know they’re going to depart, so they can schedule for a couple days before they know they’re going to depart campus.”
Departure testing begins Thursday at University Park and next Monday for other campuses. Isolation and quarantine protocols will continue for students who test positive before they leave.
Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said students have done well at following COVID-19 protocols this fall, and the university has given out severe consequences for those who didn’t.
“We have more than a dozen -- I think we now have about 15 students -- who have been suspended from the university for the most egregious instances of violating our expectations,” Sims said. That included some students who hosted large social gatherings, against the safety rules of the university and the State College Borough.
As of Tuesday, 4,221 students have tested positive for COVID-19 at University Park, according to Penn State’s COVID-19 dashboard. After recording a period of declining new cases, the trend is ticking up.
“We are carefully monitoring the recent upswing in cases at University Park and some of our Commonwealth Campuses,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a press release. “We believe that some of the increases are tied to gatherings over Halloween weekend, and we are working closely with students on contact tracing to limit further spread of the virus. This serves as a reminder to us all that the virus is still very much present, and we must work together and follow all public health guidelines — at all times — in order to protect one another.”
The university said it’s finalizing a pre-arrival testing plan for the spring semester.