Penn State Reports 174 New COVID-19 Cases This Week, Warns Remote Learning Is A Possibility

Sep 4, 2020

Penn State updated its COVID-19 dashboard Friday with data reported between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3. In that time period, 174 University Park campus students tested positive for COVID-19. Of that total, 115 were from 1,092 “on-demand” testing. From the university’s random asymptomatic testing, 59 UP campus students tested positive out of 3,065. 

University President Eric Barron urged students and employees to stay home and avoid social gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. 

“We know the virus is here, and I am of course concerned by the numbers and trends we are seeing,” Barron said in a press release. “Our ability to manage transmission and rate of growth of positive cases is critically important. Next week, we will assess data following the holiday weekend, and determine whether we need to take mitigation steps at University Park including temporary or sustained remote learning.”

That brings the total positive cases to 215 university-wide. Penn State said 9,948 tests in total have been performed since Aug. 7. There are 58 UP students in isolation and 29 in quarantine. Penn State said it has initiated its contact tracing process for all cases and that all impacted individuals are in isolation “either on-campus in Eastview Terrace, at home or in a suitable single-occupancy residence off campus.”

The university said that it has changed the names of its testing programs to “more clearly reflect the populations being tested.” “On-demand testing” replaced “symptomatic testing” to indicate the numbers of those who are symptomatic and who are identified through contact tracing. “Random screening” will now indicate the number of asymptomatic surveillance tests being done. 

Penn State said on-demand testing results are sent directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Health from the University Health Services. Random screening tests are sent to the department through a testing vendor. 

“For those experiencing symptoms, we are seeing them mostly limited to mild to moderate symptoms such as a low-grade fever, cough, and muscle aches,” said Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services.

Friday’s dashboard update did not include changes to employee data. Employee random screening will begin Tuesday, Sept. 8, according to the statement Friday.

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased sharply in Centre County, particularly at Penn State and in the neighboring State College area. The county saw 47 new cases Wednesday, 40 on Thursday and 37 on Friday. The 124 total new cases in the past three days accounts for 20% of all COVID-19 cases reported in the county since the pandemic began. 

“Now more than ever it’s important to stay vigilant with mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and staying home when sick. Let’s remember that we are living in a pandemic and need to act accordingly,” Centre County Commissioner Mike Pipe said in a statement.

Penn State’s undergraduate student government, the UPUA, and the faculty-led group, Coalition for a Just University, have called for the university to increase surveillance testing from 1% daily to 10% daily. 

The Centre Daily Times reported that UPUA also asked for the university to publicly release its closing plans, echoing requests from both the CJU and the Penn State chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Because of a rise in COVID-19 cases, Lock Haven University announced this week that it was moving to fully remote instruction starting Wednesday for two weeks.