The number of cases of COVID-19 in Centre County shot up by 184 Wednesday, in a spike that overshadows all previous increases and will likely raise questions in the community about whether Penn State can contain the spread among students.
According to the state Department of Health, there are 870 known cases of the COVID-19 in Centre County Wednesday, up from 686 Tuesday. That’s more than a 25% increase in one day. The previous largest single-day increase in Centre County was 47 cases.
The county cases include:
386 confirmed and 19 probable cases in the 16801 State College zip code, which neighbors Penn State. That’s up from 249 confirmed cases and 19 probables on Tuesday.
97 confirmed cases in the 16802 zip code, Penn State’s University Park campus. That’s up from 62.
Also Wednesday, Penn State Athletics announced that 48 student athletes tested positive for the coronavirus between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4. That is a 5% positivity rate, according to the announcement. It says Athletics "has paused team activities for several programs and initiated standard isolation and precautionary quarantine. Contact tracing is being performed and there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 was transmitted during practice or training activities."
Centre County already had the second highest incidence rate in the state per 100,000 residents in the past seven days.
State College Mayor Ron Filippelli said he has faith that university leadership is taking it seriously.
But, he said the community is extremely concerned.
“My advice would probably be that they should be moving in a direction of going online totally," Filippelli said.
Filippelli said local residents aren’t getting a lot of information about the university’s plans, including details testing and contact tracing.
“They don’t know what the university’s thought processes are in terms of what they have put in place. In other words, where’s the number that tips it over," he said. "Those aren’t things that are available to us.”
A Penn State spokesman said in an email that no decisions have been made at this point and that the university will be assessing the situation "as the results from tests administered later in the holiday weekend are returned."
The dramatic one-day increase comes as Gov. Tom Wolf changed the rules for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
Pennsylvania's bars and restaurants will be able to seat patrons indoors at up to 50% of their capacity, up from 25% since July.
Once the new rule kicks in, establishments will have to certify their capacity limit, read and follow all of the state's COVID prevention protocols, and stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m.
Wolf’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said Tuesday the rules are meant to prevent patrons, especially college students, from mixing in bars.
“We don’t want people to congregate while they’re drinking,” Levine said.
Young people make up a growing number of the new COVID-19 cases. In Pennsylvania’s northcentral region, which includes Centre County, nearly 66% of cases so far in September are among 19 to 24-year-olds. That’s up from about 7% in April.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.