Two Penn State students who were traveling abroad have tested positive for COVID-19, the university’s president, Eric Barron, said.
Barron was speaking to the Board of Trustees Thursday morning during a telephone meeting.
A Penn State spokesman said the students have not been on campus. He said one student is back in the United States and has been asymptomatic. The other is still abroad. The university, he said, is “doing whatever we can to support the student, who we understand is feeling better.”
Penn State on-campus classes did not restart after spring break. Instead the university initially suspended on-campus learning and has now switched the entire semester to remote learning. On-campus facilities, including food services and dorms, have been closed down.
Barron talked about the university’s decision to get ready for remote classes ahead of time and not having students return to campus after spring break.
“You can imagine what it would have been like if we had brought all those students back and sent them back two or three days later," he said. "This would have been close to catastrophic.”
“We avoided a lot of different issues including the fact that there are still no cases in Centre County,” he said.
Even before the university moved to online learning, it began bringing students back from study abroad programs, including those in Italy. Since then, all study abroad programs have been canceled, including those for summer 2020.
Barron said the university does not know of any other student cases yet.
As of today, there are 185 cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health.
Barron said the move to online learning means added expenses, including Zoom meetings and proctored exams.
“So there are a lot of different costs associated with this that are extra whereas there's very little that we're saving because the employees are there," he said.
He said so far it looks like students are participating. By 10 a.m. Monday, Barron said, 63,000 students were remotely accessing their classrooms.