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.

Stephanie Rimel looks at a photo of her younger brother, Kyle Dixon, inside the house Kyle shared with his dad.
Brett Sholtis / Transforming Health

More than four months after Kyle Dixon died from COVID-19, his older sisters found constant reminders of him at the house he had shared with their dad: the tent, canoe and hiking boots that Kyle once used to explore Clearfield County. The grass that he used to mow, grown tall in his absence. The bottles of cough medicine he turned to as the virus began to destroy his lungs.

Stephenie Rimel remembered a precious life cut short.

Penn State's Beaver Stadium is usually packed for "Whiteout games," but due to COVID-19 there will be no fans this Saturday.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Penn State will fill Beaver Stadium and other athletic venues to full capacity this fall as fans return to the stands for the first time in nearly two years.

The announcement comes just one day after Governor Tom Wolf lifted all capacity limits for business and events in Pennsylvania. The state’s mask mandate is expected to be repealed by June 28.

Two masked students walking on the Penn State University Park campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Starting June 28, fully vaccinated people at will no longer need to wear masks on Penn State campuses.

Those who are fully protected against COVID-19 also won’t need to physically distance indoors and outdoors. Non-vaccinated individuals must continue masking after June 28.

Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam at the podium of a press briefing
PAcast

By the end of June, Pennsylvanians will no longer be required to wear a face covering, state health officials said Wednesday.

The state order that had Pennsylvanians masking up for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted at the latest by June 28, said Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam.

If 70% of adults are fully vaccinated before that date, the state will end the mask mandate early, Beam said.

The vaccine hesitancy study found 1 in 4 Pennsylvanian's don't plan to get vaccinated.
Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg

 

All Pennsylvanians 12 and up are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But a new Penn State study found one in four Pennsylvanians still don’t plan on getting vaccinated.

The study, led by Penn State Harrisburg researchers, surveyed more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians to learn about vaccine hesitancy – an umbrella term describing those who “probably” or “definitely” will not get vaccinated. They found significant differences between regions and demographics.

students wearing masks walk through downtown State College
Min Xian / WPSU

The State College Borough Council voted 5-2 Friday to modify its COVID-19 ordinance to follow federal guidance and let fully vaccinated people go without masks indoors and outdoors.

Masking in public is still needed for those who aren’t vaccinated. Individual businesses can still require mask-wearing. 

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control says everyone, regardless of vaccination status, still needs to wear masks in select locations, including in hospitals and on public transportation. 

Students outside of State College Area High School on Jan. 8, 2018.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

The State Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would allow parents to choose to have their children repeat a grade level because of learning loss due to COVID-19 for the upcoming school year. 

The decision on whether a student should repeat a year is currently made by schools and teachers. 

Penn State football coach James Franklin speaks to reporters about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines. Penn State president Eric Barron, freshman football player Theo Johnson and Governor Tom Wolf (seated, L to R) also spoke at the event.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Governor Tom Wolf, Penn State President Eric Barron and Nittany Lions football coach James Franklin spoke together at the Pegula Ice Arena Wednesday, encouraging students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before they leave for the summer. 

“Right now I know that this is maybe not something that is top of mind. Finals coming up, moving back home, finding summer jobs,” Wolf said. “But now that college students are eligible to get vaccinated, it is really important to make this a priority.” 

 

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

Pennsylvania says it is lifting all COVID-19 restrictions — except an order to wear a mask while in public — on Memorial Day.

Capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor and outdoor gatherings will go away on May 31, more than a year into the pandemic.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said in a news release Tuesday that Pennsylvania is making “significant progress” in the fight against COVID-19 and more people are getting vaccinated.

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

As summer approaches, state officials are encouraging college students to get vaccinated. Students are able to transfer vaccines to their hometowns if they receive their first dose on campus.

Acting physician general for the Pennsylvania Department of Health Dr. Denise Johnson says students can get the second dose anywhere. They just need to make sure to get the same vaccine.

“Remember that for the mRNA vaccines, which would be the Pfizer and the Moderna, they're not interchangeable so if you had Pfizer for the first dose you need Pfizer for the second," Johnson said.

A person walks across an empty mall on Penn State main campus
Min Xian / WPSU

After a year of largely remote classes and jobs, Penn State plans to move faculty and staff back to in-person work this fall as COVID-19 vaccines become widely available, according to an announcement from the university giving an overview of return-to-work plans.

In making the announcement, the university said the availability of vaccines factors into “an optimistic outlook for summer and a full, on-campus experience for students at all campuses in fall 2021.”

The entrance of the Kane Area Elementary-Middle School
Photo provided

 

Kane Area School District, spreading over 250 square miles in McKean and Elk Counties, has been holding in-person classes during the 2020-2021 school year, with the exception of ten and a half days when the district went online due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases and an additional eight days where high school students were remote. 

The pandemic has made remote learning a reality. But despite logistical challenges and health risks, schools have endeavored to keep classrooms open. 

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.”

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