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.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission logo
PUC

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has told companies they can’t turn off customers’ utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PUC’s action means utilities including electric, natural gas, water and telecommunications cannot be turned off if someone falls behind on their bills. It will last as long as Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration of disaster.

Tanya McCloskey, Pennsylvania’s acting consumer advocate, said access to utility services will be critically important in the coming weeks, and the commission did the right thing.

The YMCA of Centre County is assembling bags of food to hand out as a part of its Anti-Hunger Program. They're putting together the bags at the Moshannon Valley YMCA gym and distributing them at 14 drive-through locations around the county.
Mel Curtis / YMCA of Centre County

In response to coronavirus concerns, organizations in central Pennsylvania are finding new ways to make sure vulnerable members of the community get fed. In Centre County, both State College Area Meals on Wheels and the YMCA of Centre County are making changes to their normal processes.  

Updated 2:49 p.m. EST

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Friday the first case of COVID-19 has been reported in Centre County. Mount Nittany Medical Center reported two individuals within its system have tested positive for coronavirus. 

 

Mount Nittany Medical Center isn’t limited to serving people in Centre County, and the Department of Health lists confirmed cases based on where an individual lives, not where the test takes place. 

 

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania speaks at a news conference Thursday, March 12, 2020.
AP Photo/Marc Levy

Governor Tom Wolf is directing the state police and other law enforcement agencies to enforce an order that all businesses considered “non-life sustaining” close their physical locations.

He said he hopes the action will slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The move comes after Wolf recently urged all non-essential businesses to close.

“I had hoped for voluntary compliance, so our public safety officials could focus on the crisis. Unfortunately, we have not seen full compliance,” Wolf said.

People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City, Calif., March 15, 2020.
RINGO H.W. CHIU / AP Photo

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System, which is used to determine if someone can legally acquire a license to carry a firearm or obtain a firearm for a seller, saw a “surge in requests” earlier this week, said Major Gary Dance, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Records and Identification.

Pennsylvania Confirms First Coronavirus-Related Death

Mar 19, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf delivers a video address from his home in York County on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. His remarks were simultaneously translated into American Sign Language by a state employee in Harrisburg.
Gov. Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration on Wednesday confirmed Pennsylvania’s first death linked to the coronavirus outbreak. The person was an adult from Northampton County and was being treated at a hospital.

Wolf said the death underscores the importance of social distancing.

“Today’s is just the first death of what will become many,” Wolf said in a video message, delivered early Wednesday evening from his home in York County. “And our only hope is to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed so our medical professionals can do the most they can.”

Old Main, the administration building, on Penn State's University Park campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Two Penn State students who were traveling abroad have tested positive for COVID-19, the university’s president, Eric Barron, said.

 

Barron was speaking to the Board of Trustees Thursday morning during a telephone meeting.

 

A Penn State spokesman said the students have not been on campus. He said one student is back in the United States and has been asymptomatic. The other is still abroad. The university, he said, is “doing whatever we can to support the student, who we understand is feeling better.”

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

Penn State student Jacob Klipstein was shocked when Ohio State University announced it would suspend all in-person classes due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

view of empty Penn State mall
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State announced today that it will not return to normal, in-person classes this semester, instead keeping the entire semester online.

The move comes in response to the coronavirus and efforts to slow the increasing number of cases of COVID-19. The decision means that spring commencement ceremonies are being postponed.

A nurse holds swabs and test tube to test people for COVID-19 at a drive through station set up in the parking lot of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., Monday, March 16, 2020.
Paul Sancya / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) — A family in Cumberland County is quarantined at home after one member got sick with COVID-19.

Dominic, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, said he wouldn’t have thought to get tested for the illness if a friend hadn’t turned up positive with the coronavirus first.

He and his mother, Trina, spoke to WITF’s Smart Talk but didn’t want to use their last name because of privacy concerns.

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

Penn State plans to announce Wednesday whether the rest of the semester will continue remotely in response to COVID-19. President Eric Barron made that remark during Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting while responding to questions.

“It is the best thing to say we will answer this question tomorrow,” Barron said when asked if faculty will be delivering classes remotely for the rest of the semester. “Because, we just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, as we contemplate many, many different issues that are related to that decision.”

Pa. Hospitals Are Rationing Protective Gear As The Number Of Coronavirus Cases Grows

Mar 16, 2020
New guidance says surgical face masks should be used rather than the more protective N95 respirators in most situations.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Philadelphia Inquirer

This story was produced as part of a joint effort between Spotlight PA, LNP Media Group, PennLive, PA Post, and WITF to cover how Pennsylvania state government is responding to the coronavirus.

(Harrisburg) — Hospitals across Pennsylvania are drastically limiting the use of key protective gear out of fears that a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases could diminish reserves and cause a dangerous shortage.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Orders Statewide Shutdown Over Coronavirus

Mar 16, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a press conference in Harrisburg about the arrival of coronavirus in Pennsylvania on Friday, March 6, 2020. At rear is state Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
COMMONWEALTH MEDIA SERVICES

 

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 — Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ordered a statewide shutdown as the number of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania continued to grow.

Centre County emergency dispatcher's computer monitors
Anne Danahy / WPSU

While there are no known cases of the coronavirus in central or northcentral Pennsylvania, COVID-19 is moving across the state, and emergency care providers say they are taking steps to be ready.

“911. What’s the address of your emergency?”

That’s Paige Redman, a Centre County 911 dispatcher, taking a call. The woman says her husband is having trouble breathing. After getting the woman’s address and her husband’s age, Redman asks her something else: “OK, has he been out of the country or been around anybody that’s been sick that’s traveled out of the country lately?”

Penn State students load their belongings into cars to leave campus on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Penn State has switched to online classes for the next three weeks in response to the coronavirus. But students have a window of time to go to their dorm rooms to collect books or other things they need, and that led to at least one long line at University Park, raising concerns.

The image was posted on Facebook Sunday: a long line of Penn State students standing and waiting to access their dorm rooms. The concerns were obvious.

As the website Onward State, which posted the pictures, put it: “So much for social distancing.”

Governor Orders Pennsylvania Schools Closed For Two Weeks

Mar 13, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania speaks at a news conference Thursday, March 12, 2020.
AP Photo/Marc Levy

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf is ordering the closure of all schools in Pennsylvania for two weeks, as the state takes sweeping measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. 

The order affecting more than 1.7 million school children came as confirmed cases in the state leaped to 33 from 22.

In a statement, Wolf said "no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements."

Pa. Corrections Dept. Takes Steps To Stop Spread Of Coronavirus At Prisons

Mar 12, 2020
SCI Pittsburgh on the North Side opened in 1826.
Megan Harris / WESA

Starting Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is imposing new policies designed to prevent the introduction of the coronavirus to the state’s prison population.  

 

As of March 12, there were no known cases of the virus or its associated illness, COVID-19, among inmates held at state correctional institutions. Still, the policies aim to mitigate the spread and to improve access to care for any inmates who later become infected, such as waving medical co-pays for inmates who have flu-like symptoms.

 

Old Main, an administrative building and landmark of Penn State's University Park campus.
Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

In the wake of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania, Penn State is switching to remote learning and discouraging students from returning to campus for three weeks.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a press conference in Harrisburg about the arrival of coronavirus in Pennsylvania on Friday, March 6, 2020. At rear is state Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
Commonwealth Media Services

Editor’s note: This story was updated with details from the governor’s 2 p.m. press conference.

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that beginning Friday, the state will begin social distancing measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus. This plan is slated to last for 14 days, but will be continually evaluated.

“We’ve watched as other states, we’ve watched as other countries have struggled to control this coronavirus,” Gov. Wolf said, “and we’ve learned a lot from their efforts.”

Department Of Health Releases Coronavirus Testing Data

Mar 11, 2020
Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Karen Zimmerman, prepares a master mix for PCR inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

(Harrisburg) — Amid nationwide calls for more transparency around the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has for the first time released some data on testing for coronavirus. 

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the state has tested 175 people for the coronavirus in the week since it began testing at its facility in Exton. 

Of those people, 16 tested positive. 

So far two of those 16 have had their test results double-checked by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard practice, according to the Pennsylvania Health Department. 

Durrwachter Alumni Conference Center building
User:Ruhrfisch - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8138315

Lock Haven University, Juniata College and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford are all moving to online instruction due to coronavirus concerns. All three are currently in spring break and will temporarily suspend classes next week while they prepare to move classes online starting March 23. 

State High building
Min Xian / WPSU

All schools in the State College Area School District will stay out of session for students until March 20, 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, superintendent Bob O’Donnell informed parents in an email today. 

“At this time, we believe that is the right step to take for the health and safety of our SCASD families, employees, and the community at large — especially to protect our students and employees who are immunosuppressed or at greater risk due to age and other reasons,” O’Donnell said.

Old Main
WPSU

Penn State announced that it is canceling in-person classes and switching to remote, online learning at least through April 3. Penn State is currently on spring break, and the university is discouraging all students from returning after the break, even if they live off-campus.

There are no known cases on any of the Penn State campuses. 

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

Each year, the Blue-White game draws tens of thousands of people to the University Park campus. The scrimmage gives Nittany Lions fans a preview of the football players and serves as a popular social event.

But now, as the number of known cases of the coronavirus in the United States continues to climb, Penn State is reviewing its upcoming events, including the annual Blue-White Game, scheduled for April 18.

Woman standing in lab performing tests in Miami
Brynn Anderson / AP

As coronavirus continues to spread, Penn State University is planning for both the short-term and the long-run, including restricting some overseas trips. 

Spring break is next week, and Penn State Provost Nick Jones said the university is getting ready.

“At the end of the day it is difficult for us to manage the travel of thousands of students," Jones said. "That said, what we are trying to prepare for is the return of those students.”

As director of Global Programs, Jennifer Campbell oversees Penn State’s international community. She says her office has helped Penn State’s Chinese students by giving deferments to incoming students, assisting in buying medical equipment and by translating press releases about the disease to ensure correct information is spread.

“It’s when misinformation, disinformation happens I think that causes fear or panic that’s when you can kind of have more concerns than just the actual virus,” she said.

TRANSCRIPT:

You’re listening to WPSU’s Health Minute, a collaboration with Penn State’s College of Nursing.

The new coronavirus, which has sickened thousands and killed more than 80 people in Wuhan, China, has now been confirmed in the United States. It can cause fever, severe illness, and pneumonia. 

The CDC does not expect a large outbreak in the U.S., but they’re monitoring everyone who recently visited the now quarantined Wuhan region. 

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