COVID-19 Coverage

WPSU is following the effects of COVID-19 on our central Pennsylvania communities. Here are WPSU's most recent stories on the pandemic and links to useful information.

Penn State says it understands the anxieties students have about signing its compact, while some students say the university is waiving its responsibility.
Min Xian / WPSU

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News and other news organizations across Pennsylvania. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

Penn State's Beaver Stadium
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Pointing to health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding them, the Big Ten announced Tuesday afternoon that it is postponing fall 2020 sports, including football.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University president.

Gates to Beaver Stadium on Penn State's University Park campus in summer 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

The presidents of the Big Ten universities are expected to vote Monday night to cancel the 2020 football season as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic continue, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

Citing unnamed sources, the story says a formal announcement is expected Tuesday.

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour in a face mask at the beginning of an online press conference Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Penn State Athletics is planning for the football team to play in an empty stadium this fall, but the department does have a seating plan for about 23,000 people if the state changes the rules limiting crowd sizes.

Even with those plans, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour left open the possibility that the football team won’t play at all. 

“The virus will determine whether we play or not,” Barbour said Thursday during a press conference.

"Keep Your Distance" sign with lion's paw print
Min Xian / WPSU

 

A newly formed group called the Coalition for a Just University at Penn State hosted an online rally Wednesday, questioning the university’s plans for an in-person fall semester in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group wants the university to provide COVID-19 testing to all faculty, students and staff, publicly say staff can work remotely and give faculty control over whether they teach in-person. They're also calling for a guarantee that all full-time faculty and staff will keep their jobs and benefits in 2020-21.

A line outside Doggie's Pub on Pugh Street in State College July 11, 2020.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

 

State College Borough Council voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance requiring mask-wearing in public and limiting most gatherings to 10 people in an effort to keep the COVID-19 pandemic in check after Penn State's fall semester starts.

Someone who violates the ordinance can face a $300 fine. 

Before the vote, Boalsburg’s Carla Myers said she hoped council would pass the ordinance ahead of students’ return to State College later this month.

Sophomore Joshua Kouassi sits outside a restaurant
Joshua Kouassi

 

While many Penn State students are set to return to the University Park campus for the fall semester in less than a month, some are worried about what school will look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Penn State President Eric Barron speaking
Anne Danahy / WPSU

 

Penn State hosted a virtual town hall on its COVID-19 plans for the fall semester Thursday, including testing for students, faculty and staff amid the pandemic. 

  

In this file photo from summer 2020, a sign in front of the Mount Nittany Medical Center asks visitors to see a staff member if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Min Xian / WPSU

The state removed 24 COVID-19 cases from Centre County’s count Thursday, reflecting corrections made to previous test results the Department of Health said were “not valid.”

Centre County saw its largest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases, increasing by 43 to 356 on Sunday. The sharp increase prompted Mount Nittany Health to contact the state Department of Health, which led to retesting.

Signage for a COVID-19 collection site in State College, Pa.
Min Xian / WPSU

Some of the positive COVID-19 test results the state Department of Health reported in Centre County Sunday are not valid, and patients whose results changed after retesting are being contacted, according to the department and Mount Nittany Health.

On Sunday, Centre County saw a 43-case jump, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began. That brought Sunday's total to 356 confirmed and probable cases. 

Beaver Stadium at Penn State's University Park campus in July 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

Eight Penn State athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, and results are pending on another 66, according to the athletics department.

In a statement, Athletics said as of July 24, it has conducted a total of 466 COVID-19 tests.

University athletes have been going back to campus for summer training. At the same time, the university is moving ahead with plans to return to on-campus classes in the fall.  

 

Centre County saw its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases Sunday, adding 43 cases for a total of 356 confirmed and probable cases, according to data from the state Department of Health.

The 14% increase comes as the state is taking steps to try to reverse the trend of increasing case numbers before the beginning of the school year. 

Shelby Lincoln
Shelby Lincoln

During this summer of pandemic and protest, the WPSU news team is working with a small class of students from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. Students in the class are talking with people in our listening area about issues important to them ahead of the upcoming presidential election through phone and Zoom interviews. And they’ve taken some time to write personal essays about how the pandemic has affected them personally. Here’s one of those audio diaries from Penn State rising senior, Shelby Lincoln. 

Outside view of Beaver Stadium
Min Xian / WPSU

A Penn State athlete living on campus has tested positive for COVID-19, according to University Athletics.

In an email, a spokeswoman confirmed that the positive case included in the state Department of Health’s daily COVID-19 report Wednesday is the first positive report involving an Intercollegiate Athletics student-athlete.

 

The state report showed the first positive case in the 16802 zip, which is Penn State’s University Park campus.

Outside of Nittany Lion Inn
Min Xian / WPSU

There is at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in someone living on Penn State’s University Park campus, according to Wednesday’s report from the state Department of Health.

A department spokesman confirmed that between one and four individuals in the 16802 zip code have tested positive for the coronavirus. The specific number is redacted when there are fewer than five cases in a zip code.

 

Attendees of the die-in protest lay on the Old Main lawn for 14 minutes, symbolizing the 140,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
Min Xian / WPSU

The Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State hosted a “die-in” protest Monday, demanding the university revise its plan to bring students back on campus in the fall. 

Speaking in front of Old Main, Maggie Hernandez, an organizer with the coalition, said it’s unsafe for Penn State to plan for in-person classes in the fall. 

“If they do value and support us, they will listen to our demands, prioritize our safety and switch to fully online instruction in the fall,” Hernandez said. 

Bryan Peasley and his mom, Debbie at a Penn State football game.
Debbie Peasley

 

  The State College Area School District will be offering three different forms of learning to its students for the coming fall semester. Families have until Tuesday to decide what form of education works for them amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Penn State says about half the courses will be either fully in-person or a combination of in-person and remote learning in the fall.
Min Xian / WPSU

With nearly all classes finalized for the fall semester, Penn State says about half the courses will be either fully in-person or a combination of in-person and remote learning. Most of these classes are going to be small sections that serve upper level students, university president Eric Barron told the Board of Trustees Friday.

Beaver Stadium at Penn State's University Park campus in July 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State has tested a total of 178 student-athletes for COVID-19 and none of the results have come back positive so far, according to an announcement from University Athletics Wednesday. Results are pending on 31 tests.

Penn State Athletics has said that student-athletes will be tested on arrival at Penn State, on returning if they leave and if they become symptomatic. Athletes are being discouraged from leaving campus after arriving.

The Office of Unemployment Compensation website
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

 

 

Since March 15, Pennsylvania has paid out more than $24 billion in unemployment benefits, according to the state's Department of Labor and Industry. But some central Pennsylvania residents, many of whom were laid off because of coronavirus shutdowns, are eligible for unemployment compensation aren't getting it. 

A line outside Doggie's Pub on Pugh Street in State College July 11, 2020.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Young people, many not wearing masks, lined up outside several bars in downtown State College Saturday.

 

Those scenes — Penn State students socializing, but not social distancing — have many local residents worried about what the fall semester could bring. In response, the borough is looking into its options for enforcing mask-wearing in public places.

 

Penn State announced Monday that both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Childcare Center at University Park will reopen on Aug. 19.
Min Xian / WPSU

A group of Penn State graduate students will hold a “die-in” July 20 to protest the university administration’s decision to return to in-person classes in the fall, saying the decision risks lives to COVID-19.

“University administration is tacitly stating that there is an acceptable amount of death for a return to in-person instruction. We disagree,” said Bailey Campbell, one of the die-in’s organizers, in a news release.

In anticipation of Penn State students returning to campus in the fall, the Interfraternity Council has voted to suspend all social activities indefinitely.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

In anticipation of Penn State students returning to campus in the fall, the university’s Interfraternity Council has voted to suspend all social activities indefinitely. 

The Interfraternity Council, or IFC, voted unanimously last week for a “social moratorium,” putting a pause on parties for its 37 fraternity chapters on Penn State campuses. 

Penn State President Eric Barron said in a message to the university community that the school will support its international students against the potentially disastrous impact of a newly proposed ICE rule.
Min Xian / WPSU

Jessica Kim said she’s been losing sleep. Kim is an international student from Indonesia and studies supply chain at Penn State. She has been worrying about the newly proposed ICE policy, which says international students will have to leave the U.S. if they don’t take in-person classes in the fall.

Emily Reddy / WPSU

 

 

In some parts of central and northern Pennsylvania, arts festivals are a summer tradition. But 2020 has been a tough year for festivals. As the COVID-19 pandemic took shape, many such events were canceled.

 

Rick Bryant, director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College, estimates that 99% of arts festivals around the country are canceled this summer.  

 

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour taking off a face mask at the beginning of an online press conference Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour said during a news conference Wednesday that no student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 so far out of 102 tested.

Barbour said Athletics will report its results publicly every two weeks. She said that will happen at least until students return for the fall semester, and then will be reevaluated.

The university has said it will make its overall testing results data public.

State High building
Min Xian / WPSU

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, families in the State College Area School District will decide whether to send their children to school in person or have them learn online at home.

Like other school districts in Pennsylvania, State College is planning how it will teach students when the new school year begins in the fall. The board reviewed those plans during a meeting Monday night.

Pre-K-12 schools in Pennsylvania were closed for the last three months of the school year that just ended, due to coronavirus concerns. Gov. Tom Wolf told schools to move to a digital learning model.

We talked about the effects of the shutdown on students with Ed Fuller, an associate professor in the College of Education at Penn State.   

TRANSCRIPT:

Emily Reddy:

A "now hiring" banner from before the coronavirus hit still hangs outside The Corner Room in downtown State College.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

In keeping with federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines, college students in Pennsylvania will be counted where they’re actually living and plan to live for most of the year — not their permanent home addresses.

 

That will help towns like Lock Haven, Bradford and State College — where Penn State’s main campus is — see if COVID-19 cases are climbing.

 

Junior Jon Flatley at the Nittany Lion Shrine.
Jon Flatley

 

 

    

Penn State leaders hosted a virtual town hall for parents and students on Monday to clarify any concerns about the university’s "Back to State" plan for returning to school in the fall. Some students say their questions remain unanswered.

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