Penn State Faculty Senate Passes Resolution For More COVID-19 Tests, University Park Cases Top 3,100

Oct 9, 2020

The number of positive COVID-19 tests at Penn State University Park increased by 196 Friday, since Tuesday’s dashboard update. That brings the total so far for the week of Oct. 2-8 to 287 positive cases, with 653 tests still awaiting results for the time period. The total positives at University Park are now 3,166.

“As we noted on Tuesday we are continuing to see declines in our positive test results, however, it would be premature to draw conclusions about wider trends,” said Penn State President Eric Barron.

“Testing results are just one of the many pieces of data we’re monitoring to determine our next steps in responding to this pandemic,” Barron said. “Our approach is evolving in alignment with what we’re seeing in test results, contact tracing, and quarantine, isolation and hospital capacity, among other statistics and trends.”

Penn State’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution Thursday demanding that the university significantly increase random testing of COVID-19, release information on what might trigger a switch to remote learning, and test all students and employees before the spring semester begins in January. 

Former Senate Chair Jim Strauss authored the resolution and said the university talked about its COVID-19 modeling system and contact tracing program, but gave little data to the community.

“From a public health standpoint, we think that both might be useful for faculty, staff and students, in terms of them making decisions about where they want to be, what precautions they need to take, et cetera,” Strauss said during a special meeting Thursday. “We’d like at least components of that information to be public so that people can make informed decisions. That’s the main goal.”

The resolution echoed calls from many organizations on campus, such as the University Park Undergraduate Association, Coalition of Graduate Employees and the American Association of University Professors. These groups have consistently asked for more testing and greater transparency from the university, since the fall semester resumed with almost half of courses having at least some in-person instruction.

In a virtual seminar Thursday, Barron said the university is considering additional rapid COVID-19 testing, an aspect discussed in the resolution.

“Nothing is off the table, and as we move along and we see what the possibilities are, you’re going to hear more information as we go on into the spring," Barron said. 

Friday’s dashboard update added one new positive result from a University Park employee. Penn State Altoona reported 12 new cases and the Abington campus added three new cases. Fayette, Harrisburg and Schuylkill campuses each had one new case.

There are 60 University Park students in quarantine and 136 in isolation. The university said 2,618 cases are no longer active.

Penn State police officers can now enforce the State College Borough’s COVID-19 ordinance, the university said in a release Wednesday. Officers were sworn in “specifically to support mask wearing and dispersal of large gatherings on the University Park campus, including for campus visitors.” 

Beginning Friday, Penn State is moving its walk-up COVID-19 testing location on the University Park campus from the HUB parking deck to the Pegula Ice Arena, in anticipation of colder weather, the university announced Thursday. Asymptomatic students can get tested there for free everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.