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.

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

 

Centre Volunteers in Medicine hosted one of Centre County’s first COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics Saturday, vaccinating about 1,200 people at Mount Nittany Middle School.

Pamela Moeng was one of them. Moeng works at Park Forest Middle School and said she tried to sign up for vaccination appointments with multiple providers before she was finally scheduled by CVIM. 

Penn State senior and pre-med student Avinash Saraiya, unpacks his suitcase as he moves into his new apartment in downtown State College.
Michael Miller

Worsening COVID-19 conditions at the end of last year led Penn State to move all spring semester classes online until Feb. 15. The university also discouraged all students – living both on and off campus – from returning to State College until then. But many students have already returned to Centre County. 

Avinash Saraiya is a pre-med student at Penn State. He moved in to his off-campus apartment in mid-January. He said being in Centre County makes him feel connected to the university even during the pandemic.

A COVID-19 vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Centre Volunteers in Medicine will host one of Centre County’s first COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics on Saturday. The organization plans to vaccinate 1,200 people during the event at Mount Nittany Middle School.

All appointments have been filled for CVIM’s Super Saturday COVID vaccine clinic, which will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CVIM Director of Development Monica Wright said over 6,000 people tried to register for the event, but only 1,200 vaccines are available.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with the press in Harrisburg.
Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a major overhaul of public school finance, aimed at addressing resource inequities, that would be backed by a significant increase to Pennsylvania’s personal income tax.

Wolf formally presented the $37.8 billion plan at a remote version of his annual budget address Wednesday, saying it is an effort to answer three questions: “What do people need to be able to build a brighter future here in Pennsylvania? What are the barriers that get in their way? And what can we do to help remove those barriers?”

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

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, in cooperation with local health care systems, has started distributing the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.

Experts believe the vaccine may help keep people from getting seriously ill, even if they get COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated may also help protect those around you, especially those who may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

Entrance of Mount Nittany Medical Center with a sign that warns of COVID-19 symptoms
Min Xian / WPSU

Mount Nittany Health opened their online self-scheduling system for COVID-19 vaccination Friday, and available appointments ran out within the first hour, according to the health system.

Penn State students walk across the University Park campus at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

Phase 1B of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s vaccination plan includes people living in “congregate settings.”  The category includes people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and rehab facilities. But in response to inquiries from WPSU, DOH deputy press secretary Maggi Barton said college students living in dorms are not included in that group. 

 

Epidemiologist Dr. Nita Bharti
Nita Bharti

The COVID-19 vaccine is slowly rolling out across the country. Some people still have concerns about these new vaccines and their safety.

We had epidemiologist Nita Bharti answer some of those questions. Dr. Bharti is an Assistant Professor of Biology in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State. She’s been educating the community about COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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

As a COVID-19 outbreak at a state prison in Forest County continues, the sparsely populated county in northwestern Pennsylvania now has the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the state by far. 

As of Thursday, there were 1,245 known cases in Forest County. That’s about 17% of the county’s entire population.

 

It’s also more than double the number in the county just a week before.

Emily Shearer, a registered nurse in critical care services at Mount Nittany Medical Center, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from Dr. Upendra Thaker.
Mount Nittany Health

Mount Nittany Health announced that starting Friday of next week community members who meet the state's eligibility guidelines will be able to go online to

Penn State student Maliha Reza expected her first presidential election to be at a voting booth. Instead, she voted by mail. Reza's first presidential inauguration went similarly as she watched on TV at home instead of attending in person.
Maliha Reza

2020 was the first year many Penn State students could vote in the presidential election. Several politically active students shared their reactions to Wednesday’s inauguration.

 

Maliha Reza is an electrical engineering student and a member of the Penn State College Democrats. She remembers voting for Barack Obama during a mock election in elementary school. Reza expected her first time voting for a president would be similar.

Penny Cracas, with the Chester County, Pa., Health Department, fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 29, 2020.
Matt Slocum / AP Photo

Pennsylvania is expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine in the initial phase of the rollout to include people age 65 and over as well as younger people with serious health conditions that put them at higher risk. State health officials made the announcement Tuesday.

Conditions that qualify residents for the vaccine include cancer, diabetes, obesity, COPD, certain heart conditions and immune deficiencies, sickle cell disease, pregnancy and being a smoker.

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

Until now, Forest County in northwestern Pennsylvania had seen relatively few cases of COVID-19, but that changed when cases at a state prison spiked.

The daily COVID-19 count from the state showed cases in Forest County increasing by 33% — jumping from 430 to 571 on Wednesday.

A mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination truck
Photo courtesy of Primary Health Network

 

As the general public awaits COVID-19 vaccination across the country and in Pennsylvania, questions remain about how vaccines will reach rural communities and how accepting of the remedy rural residents will be. 

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

It’s likely that we’ll continue to wear masks regularly to protect ourselves from COVID-19.

Here are some tips on how to properly put on and take off a mask:

The sign for Centre Crest Nursing Home outside the Bellefonte building.
Emily Reddy

 

  

 

 

 

Chip Minemyer’s mother, Marjorie, was born in the Bald Eagle Valley. Minemyer said she was sweet and full of life and loved the area. He lost his mother to COVID-19 on Thanksgiving day.

“She was 92, a lifelong Centre County resident," Minemyer said.

 

Nationally, about a third of COVID-19 deaths are from nursing and personal care homes. In Pennsylvania, it’s more than half.

 

Health care workers protest outside of Hearthside Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in State College, Pa. on Jan. 11. They came out to demand new contracts from Embassy Healthcare.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

This has been one of the hardest years in Danielle Fox’s life as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said a new contract is making it even harder.

“Amongst the pandemic, the last thing we thought we would have to fight for is a contract,” Fox said.

Fox organized a protest on Monday with other workers from Hearthside Rehab & Nursing Center in State College to fight the new contract put in place in November by the facility’s new owner, Embassy Healthcare. Workers said it increases their health insurance costs by 60%.

Coronavirus Variant Found in Pennsylvania

Jan 7, 2021
CDC

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Pennsylvania for the first time, state health officials announced Thursday.

Someone in Dauphin County tested positive for the variant “after known international exposure,” the Department of Health said in a news release. The patient had mild symptoms and has since completed isolation at home, health officials said.

 

  

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

The past few weeks have been challenging as we continue to take precautions to slow and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Here are some tips to help you stay connected to your family, friends, and community:

Penn Medicine's frontline workers receive the first round of COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 16, 2020.
Penn Medicine

After weeks of record high coronavirus case numbers, the pandemic in Pennsylvania is finally starting to ebb — but the commonwealth isn’t out of the woods yet.

Currently, there are 5,529 people hospitalized in Pennsylvania with COVID-19, nearly double the peak last spring. The statewide percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests is 15%. But both of those numbers are now trending down, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced Monday.

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

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, it’s important to take the time to wash your hands properly to prevent the spread of germs.

For proper handwashing:

1. Wet your hands with running water, then lather with soap.

2. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. To ensure accurate timing, hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end. 

3. Finish by rinsing your hands with running water and drying them using an air dryer or a clean towel.

Dr. Victor Lahnovych, Medical Director of the Keystone Rural Health Consortia, received a Moderna vaccine Wednesday.
Courtesy of Victor Lahnovych

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna was the second vaccine to be cleared by the FDA. Keystone Rural Health Consortia, a community health center with locations in Elk, Cameron, McKean and Centre Counties, received a total of 1,475 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Wednesday.

 WPSU’s Min Xian talked with Kristie Bennardi, CEO of the consortia, about dealing with COVID-19 and beginning to vaccinate staff.

TRANSCRIPT:

Min Xian: Kristie Bennardi, thank you for talking with me.

Kristie Bennardi: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

People walking on the sidewalk in downtown State College
Min Xian / WPSU

Prompted by COVID-19, State College is looking into creating a health department, which would give the borough more control when responding to future pandemics and other public health issues.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said having a health department would let the borough be more agile when responding to situations like the significant population fluctuations that happened this year during the pandemic. State College saw most Penn State students leave in March then return in the fall.

Junior Nate Paisley prepares to walk around a wintery State College.
Nate Paisley

 

Roughly 35,000 students came back to Penn State this fall for classes during the coronavirus pandemic. One out of every seven of those students contracted COVID-19 during the semester. Some Penn State students who tested positive shared their experiences with the virus and whether catching it made them more or less cautious. 

Emily Shearer, a registered nurse in critical care services at Mount Nittany Medical Center, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from Dr. Upendra Thaker.
Mount Nittany Health

Mount Nittany Medical Center received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines this week — 975 doses — and began administering them to frontline hospital staff Friday. WPSU’s Anne Danahy talked with Chief Medical Officer Nirmal Joshi about getting the vaccines while case numbers continue to climb.

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

Citing “worsening virus conditions,” Penn State will delay the beginning of in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester until Feb. 15, the university announced Friday. 

Under the new plan, the semester will begin on Jan. 19 with remote instruction at all campus locations. In-person classes are slated to begin on Feb. 15, but Penn State says that “could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state.”

Mount Nittany Health pharmacy supervisor David Johnson receives the hospital's first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 16, 2020.
Mount Nittany Health

Officials with Penn Highlands Healthcare said they expect to get 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at each of three of their facilities slated for the first round of distribution in Pennsylvania: Penn Highlands DuBois, Elk and Huntingdon.

Andrew Kurtz, system director for retail pharmacy services at Penn Highlands, said about 240 staff in the emergency unit, ICU, cardiovascular ICU and lung center will be the first to receive the vaccine Friday. 

A man gives a woman with a COVID-19 vaccine injection in her arm.
Jay LaPrete / AP

Mount Nittany Medical Center in Centre County is one of the hospitals in central Pennsylvania slated to get its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines this week as the state rolls out plans to distribute the vaccines.

“We have formed a task force that has been preparing for the shipment and has developed a plan for distributing the vaccines to our healthcare staff," said Mount Nittany Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nirmal Joshi.

Penn State student Kaitlyn Harris did an asymptomatic saliva test at a mobile testing site in August.
Min Xian / WPSU

  

Penn State is one of many universities that had students return for fall classes during the coronavirus pandemic. Classes at Penn State and many other universities have now moved to remote learning at the Thanksgiving break. WPSU took a look how different universities handled testing and their COVID-19 numbers relative to Penn State. 

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 number of reported COVID-19 cases in Centre County increased by 302 Friday, setting a single-day record, but the state said an oversight in reporting may be a factor in that large jump.

The county now has a total of  7,456 known cases. The previous largest single-day increase was 212 cases on Sept. 15. After that, the rise in cases in Centre County had slowed down.

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