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.

The regional vaccination clinic at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center is reopening with the Moderna vaccine.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Vaccinations will resume Thursday at the Regional Vaccination Clinic at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College. The clinic was briefly paused over concerns over rare blood clots in a small number of women who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was being administered at the BJC. 

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Department of Health announced Wednesday that operations would resume using the two-dose Moderna vaccine.

The regional vaccination clinic at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center was paused pending an investigation into the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

Pennsylvania says it is following the federal government’s recommendation and pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during an investigation into reports of unusual blood clots.

The state Department of Health told all COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state Tuesday to stop administering the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine until at least April 20 “out of an abundance of caution.”

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said this pause includes the Regional Vaccination Clinic that opened Friday in State College.

Front view of Bradford Regional Medical Center in the city of Bradford in McKean County, Pennsylvania
Emily Reddy / WPSU

 

Kathy Masisak, 68, doesn’t want to live in a community without robust medical care. But her local hospital in rural McKean County has been downsizing for years, and she said it’s affecting her family.

“They took a maternity ward away last year, and my granddaughter had to go to Olean — which is 35, 40 minutes away — in an emergency situation to deliver that baby,” Masisak said. “I was panicking the whole time going over there to see her.” 

Pennsylvania: All Adults Eligible For Vaccine On Tuesday

Apr 12, 2021
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a COVID-19 vaccination site setup at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., Monday, March 15, 2021.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania will expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults beginning Tuesday, nearly a week ahead of schedule. 

State health officials said Monday that the quicker rollout was enabled by “ongoing appointment availability” in many parts of the state. 

Gov. Tom Wolf says the accelerated timetable is necessary to keep up with increase coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations. Most states have already made adults universally eligible for the vaccine. 

Head shots of State College mayoral candidates Ezra Nanes and Jim Leous
Photos provided

Two Democrats — and no Republicans — are on the ballot in this year’s primary race for State College mayor. Ezra Nanes is director of business development at AccuWeather. He previously ran for state Senate and tried for a seat on the State College Borough Council, and he's a member of the Centre County Democratic Committee. Jim Leous leads the emerging technologies group for Penn State's Information Technology Services. He’s also a member of the State College Area school board and adviser to the Penn State College Democrats.

A Bradford Regional Medical Center sign that directs visitors to different departments
Emily Reddy / WPSU

McKean County is hosting a mass vaccination clinic Friday, after the county saw a brief period of providers getting no first dose vaccines from the state.

Bradford Regional Medical Center is hosting the clinic at the Old Central Christian High School building and will use an emergency allotment of 1,170 doses for those who register ahead of time.

president.psu.edu

Shortly after Governor Tom Wolf announced the new outline for vaccine distribution in Pennsylvania, Penn State President Eric Barron addressed pre-submitted questions from faculty and staff about how the university will deal with COVID-19 moving forward. In a livestream, Barron urged employees to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible. Those who work with students can sign up starting on Monday.

Kelly Wolgast is the director of Penn State’s COVID-19 operations control center. She says, for now, Penn Staters will have to look outside the university for a vaccine.

While some members of the Penn State community are wary of the university's return to in-person classes, some believe vaccines may make transition safer.
Jade Campos / WPSU

  

As more and more of the country gets vaccinated against coronavirus, many Penn Staters are feeling hopeful about the upcoming in-person school year. Others point to the current upswing in COVID cases and say it’s too soon.

Gov. Tom Wolf looks at a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., Monday, March 15, 2021.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says every adult in Pennsylvania will qualify for COVID-19 vaccines starting April 19.

Starting immediately, vaccine appointments are being expanded to include police, corrections officers and other law enforcement; volunteer and professional firefighters; grocery employees; and food and farm workers.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said Wednesday the new timeline is possible because the state’s rate of vaccinations has quickened.

Melissa Dibble / courtesy of Melissa Dibble

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve brought you thoughts on the pandemic year from residents of central and northern Pennsylvania.  To end the series today, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with Melissa Dibble, a travel nurse from McKean county, who worked in the heart of the crisis, at a New Jersey hospital.

ALLEN:  Why did you decide to go from the relative safety of McKean county into practically the epicenter of the COVID crisis in New Jersey?

A vaccinator administered a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a patient during a mass vaccination clinic held by Centre Volunteers in Medicine on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Min Xian / WPSU

People who meet Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccination eligibility guidelines under the state’s 1B and 1C phases can now sign up for waitlists to get shots from Penn Highlands Healthcare. 

Jared Conti / courtesy of Jared Conti

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past pandemic year. For today’s story, we spoke with the manager of a Lock Haven coffee house who says the community rallied to support local businesses.

“I am a husband of one, a father of two, and I manage a coffee shop: Avenue 209 in Lock Haven,” said Jared Conti.

He is also a singer and lyricist with a local band. And he’s a writer.  

“I am mainly a poet,” Conti said. "I’m at work on a long-form post-apocalyptic ballad.”

Linda Mantz / courtesy of the artist

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of the past pandemic year. For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a Milesburg resident who teaches yoga for addiction recovery. She talks about the effect of the pandemic on the recovery community.

“I’m in what I would call long-term recovery now,” Linda Mantz said. “But I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.”

Mantz of is retired from Penn State, where she taught Human Development and worked as a counselor.

“I am grateful to be celebrating over 30 years of recovery this year,” she said.

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

 

In a livestream Friday, leaders at Penn State and from the surrounding community voiced concerns about the recent uptick in coronavirus cases and a new, more infectious variant found in State College.

State College Mayor Ron Filippelli said police have been responding to more gatherings recently and he sees a relaxation of precautions across the board.

Jim Welsh / courtesy of Jim Welsh

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past year for our series, Pandemic, Year One. For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a bicycle mechanic from State College who was lost his job due to COVID-19, then started his own business.

“I’ve always had a way with bicycles and a love for mechanical things. You know, take them apart, figure out how they work, that kind of thing.”

Jim Welsh of State College said he’s been working as a bicycle mechanic since he was about 14 years old.  He enjoys riding, too, around local trials.

Mary Petrak (selfie) / courtesy of Mary Petrak

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past year for our series, Pandemic, Year One.  For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a retired teacher from Hollidaysburg.  She lost her husband just before the pandemic began.

“He was just a guy with a big smile that lit up the room,” Mary Petrak said. “He was really good at listening to people’s stories.  Also a good storyteller.”

Petrak’s husband, Dave, died five months before the pandemic started.  They had been married for 43 years.

Gary Abdullah / courtesy of Gary Abdullah

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of the pandemic. WPSU’s Kristine Allen brings us their stories for our series, Pandemic, Year One. For today’s story, she spoke with a Penn State retiree, an elder at his church, who’s helping to keep the congregation connected.

Gary Abdullah of State College has been very careful to avoid catching COVID-19.

“I wear rubber gloves everyplace I go nowadays,” he says. “Everybody’s got a mask.”

In the past year, he says, the pandemic has changed some of his habits.

courtesy of Laurie Barrett / Mel Thrush Photography

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past pandemic year. WPSU’s Kristine Allen brings us their stories for our series, Pandemic, Year One. For today’s story, she talked with speech language pathologist who had a stressful year but found comfort in creativity.

“Honestly, for about a solid year my eye was twitching,” said Laurie Barrett, with a laugh. “You know, just stress, being a working parent of teenagers involved with extracurricular activities.”

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, one out of every 12 residents in Centre County has tested positive for COVID-19.
Pennsylvania Department of Health / Pennsylvania Department of Health

Saturday marked one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Centre County. 

Nearly 14,000 Centre County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That’s about one out of every 12 residents.

courtesy of Katy Stager

In recent weeks, we’ve asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past pandemic year. WPSU’s Kristine Allen brings us their stories.  This is the first installment of our series, “Pandemic: Year One.”  Today she talks with a mother of four who has been trying to keep her family safe while dealing with social isolation and trying to stay positive.

“When we were looking back, we kind of referred to that week, our last vacation, as the week the world stopped.”

WPSU’s Health Minute is a collaboration with Penn State’s College of Nursing.

It’s important to keep your routine medical and dental appointments during the pandemic.

Routine appointments are an important part of preventative health care. They ensure you’re up-to-date with vaccines and medication management.

There are steps you can take to keep yourself safe during appointments. Ask if there’s an option to meet with your provider virtually via telemedicine as an alternative to an in-person visit.

University Park Airport located in Centre County
Addison Albert

Governor Tom Wolf has lifted the coronavirus ban on traveling between states. Officials at the University Park Airport in State College hope this change will boost business at the hard-hit airport. 

Bryan Rodgers is the director of the University Park Airport. He says business was down by 70% this January from last January, and it was like that throughout 2020. 

The government kept airports and airlines afloat with CARES Act funding. The University Park Airport received $2.3 million in the COVID relief aid.

Saturday kicked off the first day of the four day COVID-19 vaccination clinic hosted by the Central Intermediate Unit 10.
Jade Campos / WPSU

  

Teachers, nurses, principals and other school staff from Centre, Clearfield and Clinton counties began arriving at Mount Nittany Middle School at 8 a.m. Saturday for a special COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Employees received Johnson & Johnson single-dose shots that Governor Tom Wolf earmarked exclusively for K-12 school employees and childcare workers.

The State College Area School District Operations Director Randy Brown said hundreds have scheduled appointments during the four-day clinic.

A a technician sitting above a manhole next to a red cone installs a flow meter into the university's sewage network.
Michael Shreve / Penn State

A team of Penn State researchers is using wastewater testing to track the rise and fall of the COVID-19 virus in the State College area. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, about the project. Here's their conversation. 

Anne Danahy 

Andrew Read, thank you for talking with us.

Andrew Read 

Sure.

Anne Danahy 

The State College Police Department reported a total of four COVID-19 ordinance violations over State Patty's Day weekend. Violators of the ordinance can receive a fine up to $300.
Jade Campos / WPSU

State College’s annual partying holiday, State Patty’s Day, took place this past weekend. Crime rates surrounding the event have dipped in recent years. That trend continued this year despite the creation of new COVID-19 citations.

This State Patty’s weekend saw the lowest crime statistics in the past 11 years.

State College and Penn State police focused enforcement on dorms and apartments close to campus. The borough encouraged rental owners to keep an eye out for large gatherings throughout the weekend as well.

People lining up outside of a school gym, waiting to get COVID-19 vaccines
Min Xian / WPSU

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out unevenly in Pennsylvania, Elk County is a leader in administration of shots. The rural county ranks second in the rate of fully vaccinated residents in the commonwealth, according to the Department of Health’s dashboard Tuesday. 

Montour County, where Geisinger Health is headquartered in Danville, has the highest rate of residents who are fully inoculated.

WPSU’s Health Minute is a collaboration with Penn State’s College of Nursing.  

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic underscores the challenges of communicating factual health information. As our understanding of the virus evolves, so does the guidance for keeping ourselves COVID-free.

Health-related messages are most successful when they include a call to action based on people’s beliefs about a health threat, when people perceive the action to reduce the threat as effective, and when people feel they can carry out that action.

Every year, the Governor of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly have to agree on budget. But this year, lawmakers are also tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to that are hot button issues including the outcome of the presidential election and legislative redistricting. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with two elected leaders from Centre County: Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff.

TRANSCRIPT

A male voter at a voting booth with a "Vote" sign
Alex Brandon / AP

 

The U.S. Census Bureau said Friday that it will get redistricting data to the states by the end of September, not the end of March as originally planned, a hold up that Pennsylvania Republican leaders say could lead to a delay in next year’s primary.

 

“When you’re making decisions in life, it’s always good to have information as early as you can," said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, who is one of the Republicans who will serve on the state’s redistricting commission.

 

WPSU’s Health Minute is a collaboration with Penn State’s College of Nursing.

Many people are working or attending school from home during the pandemic. Sitting for extended periods of time in spaces that aren’t designed for office work can lead to pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.

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