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.

Nancy and Sam McKinney
Nancy McKinney

Sam McKinney, from Kane, died from COVID-19 on May 5th. He’s the only person from McKean County so far to die from the virus. His wife, Nancy, also got sick.

WPSU’s Emily Reddy talked with Adam Bundy, Nancy’s son and Sam McKinney’s step-son.  

TRANSCRIPT 

 

Emily Reddy: 

Thank you for talking with us, and I’m so sorry for your loss.  

 

Adam Bundy:  

Thank you. 

 

In this file photo from July 2018, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna spoke at a town hall in Philipsburg on opioids.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna, the Centre County sheriff, and police chiefs from State College and Bellefonte, Spring, Patton, and Ferguson Townships and Penn State released statements Thursday on racial inequities in the United States and a police officer’s oath to protect and serve. 

State College Area students driving in a red car, participated in the Senior Parade on May 27, 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

  

In March, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered Pennsylvania’s K through 12 schools closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That meant high school students had to adjust to a new “normal” of learning remotely. 

For Ronit Patel, a senior at State College Area High School who is also a musician, that has meant turning to music.

“To let out all my frustrations about quarantine and stuff, I just sing. I belt my heart out and sing," Patel said. "And, I feel like it’s really helped me stay kind of positive in this horrible, horrible time.” 

In-person turnout for the primary election Tuesday was low in Centre County.
Min Xian / WPSU

In-person turnout for the primary election Tuesday was low in Centre County. Many voters opted to vote by mail, an option significantly expanded last year and especially encouraged because of COVID-19.

Jordan Emely is a judge of elections in State College. About ten percent of the voters registered in his precinct had sent in their mail-in ballots before the primary. 

Junior Lexy Leidlein at a Penn State football game.
Lexy Leidlein

Junior journalism major Lexy Leidlein is back home in her childhood bedroom in Waterbury, Connecticut. In mid-May she visited State College to move out of her dorm. While she was in town, Leidlein noticed several downtown houses hosting “porch parties.” It made her think students will not follow social distancing protocols. 

Tuesday is primary election day in Pennsylvania, which the state postponed from April because of the coronavirus. Primary this year will feel different with potentially longer lines at polling places even though fewer voter are expected.
Min Xian / WPSU

Tuesday is primary election day in Pennsylvania, which the state postponed from April because of the coronavirus. Besides the date change, this year’s primary will also feel different with potentially longer lines at polling places even though fewer voters are expected to show up. 

Denise Meyer, an election judge in Centre County, said she’ll be working at her precinct in Ferguson Township for the primary, because she feels an obligation.

This graphic from Gov. Tom Wolf outlines the phases of reopening.
Gov. Tom Wolf

Eighteen Pennsylvania counties moved Friday into the green phase of Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan. Those counties include Centre, Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Forest and McKean.

In the green phase, Wolf says personal care services such as hair salons and barber shops can reopen with appointments. Appointments are encouraged for gyms and spas. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that Centre County will move from the yellow to the green phase of reopening this Friday. Centre County Commissioners voted unanimously earlier Tuesday to ask Wolf to move up the county's reopening, after first asking him to delay it until June 5

Governor Tom Wolf said on Friday that he will remove most coronavirus restrictions on 17 mostly western and north-central counties on May 29. The counties moving to the “green” phase are Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

 

Wolf said he’d planned to move Centre County to green, but local officials told him they didn’t feel the county was ready yet. 

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said it will begin a phased reopening for all state correctional facilities next Tuesday. SCI Rockview, like others, will see some coronavirus restrictions lifted.
Min Xian / WPSU

A phased reopening process for Pennsylvania state prisons will begin next Tuesday and all 25 state correctional facilities will see some coronavirus restrictions lifted, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Friday.

Jenny Van Hook is the Roy C. Buck Professor of Sociology and Demography at Penn State and a former member of the Census Advisory Board.
Jenny Van Hook

The COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. intensified just as the 2020 Census was getting underway in earnest. As Americans fill their days with news about the new coronavirus, the Census Bureau is doing everything it can to spread the word about completing the Census online while grappling with how to do critical in-person follow up during a time of social distancing. As our guest this week explains, the consequences of an undercount directly impact public health in significant ways.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health graphic urges people to "Know the Symptoms of COVID-19," which can be spread through close contact.
PA Department of Health

 

It’s a warm spring night in State College, and Penn State students are gathering in yards and on porches. There’s music. There’s beer pong. But, social distancing and face masks? Not so much.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State moved its summer classes online, and most students aren’t in town. That doesn’t mean student socilializing has disappeared.

 

State College police say they’re focused on educating partiers about the coronavirus safety guidelines.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf in a file photo
Photo: AP

Some Pennsylvania counties may find out Friday that the state is moving them from “yellow” to “green” status of COVID-19 reopening, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said during a call with reporters Thursday.

“I’ll be announcing a whole range of counties tomorrow moving from red to yellow, and the hope is that we’ll also be making some counties that might even be moving from yellow to green tomorrow,” Wolf said.

Citing a significant loss of patient volume and revenue shortfall, Mount Nittany Health said it will reduce approximately 50 positions over the next three weeks.
Min Xian / WPSU

Citing a significant loss of patient volume and revenue shortfall, Mount Nittany Health, which has medical facilities, outpatient centers and physician group locations in Centre, Mifflin and Lycoming Counties, said it will eliminate approximately 50 positions over the next three weeks. 

Eric Barron
Ralph Wilson, File / AP Photo

Penn State is still aiming to bring students back to its campuses in the fall, and is coming up with plans for how to do that safely. That was one of the topics during a virtual town hall university leaders held Tuesday.

  

Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims is leading a task force focused on the return to campus and community.

 

The Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County is the site of one of the state's worst outbreaks.
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News. 

HARRISBURG — Amid a growing death toll and mounting pressure from lawmakers and advocates, Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday released a long sought-after list of long-term care facilities where the coronavirus has infected or killed residents.

A Penn State parking sign in a "Red" lot on campus explains parking restrictions.
Penn State Transportation Services

  

While most Penn State employees are currently working from home, they're going to continue to pay for their on-campus parking permits, the university announced.

The university will keep deducting parking fees from the paychecks of faculty and staff who are receiving their full salaries. Employees pay $37 a month for a typical parking permit at University Park.

Sixth grader Lauren Dawson doing schoolwork at home on a computer.
Mike Dawson

You’ve probably heard stories about what it means to be an adult working from home or out of work. But, what’s it like being a young person out of school? K through 12 students have been at home since March, and WPSU talked with some of those students from central Pennsylvania about what they think of not going to back for the rest of school year and what they’re looking forward to.

Here's some of what they had to say:

My name is Lauren Dawson. I’m in sixth grade, and I go to Mount Nittany Middle School. (Centre County)

Chambersburg, Pa. which has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, is in a county where state lawmakers are pushing for a faster reopening of the economy.
Jeffrey Stockbridge for Keystone Crossroads

Rodrigo Ortiz has been trying to sound the alarm about COVID-19. At the end of April, he stood outside of a coronavirus testing site in downtown Chambersburg wearing a white face mask and turned on Facebook Live.

“There’s a lot of people who think nothing will happen to them, and keep getting together, keep having parties,” he said in Spanish into the camera, before imploring residents of the borough to stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

“Sixty percent of people here are testing positive, and the majority are Hispanics,” he continued, with emotion.

A teacher reads to kids at Step by Step School for Early Learning in State College, Pa.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

In some ways, Rachel Johnson is grateful for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s mid-March business shutdown order: it took the agonizing decision over whether to close the child care center she runs with her husband out of their hands.

“It was sad and scary, but in a way, easy, because the choice was made for us,” said Johnson, 36, who runs Step by Step School for Early Learning in Centre County. “It was like, ‘Ok, we have to close.’ There was nothing to think about.”

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a house
Business Wire

Green energy businesses had been seeing growth, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

“We’re all doing the best we can in the new normal here,” said Kevin Gombotz, vice president of Envinity, a green design and construction company.

Screen shot of the Zoom home page
Anne Danahy

After getting hit by Zoom bombings ranging from disruptive to disturbing, Penn State is tightening the security defaults on the platform.

 

“There’s whole groups of people going around, and they’re literally searching for Zoom links so they can come in later and bomb them. There’s whole chatrooms dedicated to bombing Zoom meetings, believe it or not," said Richard Sparrow, acting chief information security officer at Penn State.

 

JESSICA GRIFFIN / PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

HARRISBURG — The Wolf administration on Tuesday unveiled a plan to begin universal testing of staff and residents in the state’s hundreds of long-term care facilities, which have become the epicenter of coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania.

The gym at SCI Huntingdon has been converted to an infirmary that houses inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Pa. Dept. of Corrections

The State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon reported Tuesday that 136 inmates and 38 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, the largest number among all Pennsylvania state prisons. 

Statewide, 202 inmates and 142 state prison employees have tested positive, according to the DOC. The department began a statewide inmate quarantine in March and said it has implemented temperature checks for anyone entering state prisons and improved on the turnaround time of test results, which is now within 24 hours.

empty HUB-Robeson Center with one person walking
Min Xian / WPSU

 

Penn State has seen a drop in the number of international and in-state students applying.

 

“Admissions for summer and fall 2020 are, of course, a critical part of our budgeting and our success,” said university President Eric Barron on Friday.

 

He was speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on admissions during a university trustees meeting.

 

Stacey Sharp is a manager at Appalachian Outdoors in downtown State College. The store reopened May 8, 2020 with COVID-19 protection measures, but also continues to provide curbside pickup as an option.
Min Xian / WPSU

Governor Tom Wolf has announced the easing of restrictions on another 13 counties.

 

They include Blair and Cambria. Beaver County was the only western county not moved out of a “red” status. It’s home to what may be the state’s worst nursing home outbreak.

 

The announcement came the day that 24 counties in northcentral and northwestern Pennsylvania moved to “yellow” status.

 

Penn State graduating senior Gabrielle Barone.
Gabrielle Barone

The United States has lost more than 30 million jobs to shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two million Americans receiving bachelor’s degrees this year are about to graduate into this difficult job market. 

The unemployment rate for April came out today at 14.7%, the worst since the Great Depression. Some graduating college students are already feeling the effects. 

Gabrielle Barone, a senior at Penn State, had a job lined up at an advertising agency. It was revoked because of the ongoing pandemic. 

Erika Saunders is the chair of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health.
Erika Saunders

The coronavirus pandemic has brought sharp awareness to physical wellbeing, shelter-in-place orders and social distancing practices aim to keep our bodies safe and healthy.

But what about our minds? What effects might longterm shelter orders and social distancing have on our mental health?

We talked about this with Erika Saunders, the chair of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Andy Grant:

Some businesses are taking a cautious approach to reopening on Friday.
AP Photo / Mark Scolforo

Tommy Songer, an owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in the State College area, said he and about 20 agents he employs are getting back to work Friday to meet what he called a “pent up demand.”

“Most of them have clients that either want to see a home because they're working with buyers or they have listings that have been waiting for buyers to be able to see the homes,” Songer said. 

The gym at SCI Huntingdon has been converted to an infirmary that houses inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Pa. Dept. of Corrections

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at SCI Huntingdon, which now accounts for more than half of the cases among inmates across Pennsylvania state prisons. 

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