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 Rivet Manufactures PPE For State College Community

Apr 22, 2020
Camille Sogin, manager of The Rivet, shows off one of the face shields that the makerspace is manufacturing.
Camille Sogin / The Rivet

State College’s The Rivet is a makerspace dedicated to sharing knowledge and manufacturing equipment like laser cutters and 3D printers. But it has found a new purpose since COVID-19 started its spread. 

Staff are now producing protective gear including face masks, face shields and even some respirator and ventilator parts for healthcare and other essential workers in the local community. This personal protective gear, or PPE, has been in short supply since the pandemic began. 

Rivet manager Camille Sogin is leading the effort. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is now providing a map of positive cases based on zip codes.
Pa. Dept. of Health

Updated at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday

Several counties including Centre, Cambria and Warren added new fatalities from COVID-19 Tuesday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

view of empty Penn State mall
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is preparing online learning options as it faces the possibility of students from other countries not being able to return to the United States in the fall because of travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“What we’re uncertain of at this time is whether that experience will be fully residential or whether we have to have a remote learning component as we did this spring and as we’re planning for the summer,” said Roger Brindley, vice provost for Global Programs at the university.

 

A health care worker stands near a rally organized by opponents of Gov. Tom Wolf's strict coronavirus mitigation efforts.
Joseph Darius Jaafari / PA Post

Armed with nothing but signs and science, half a dozen medical workers from across the state showed up near the capitol in Harrisburg on Monday to counter the message of hundreds of “ReOpen PA” protesters calling for an end to coronavirus restrictions.

The small group of health care workers told people participating in the larger rally to go home to keep their loved ones safe. But they made their point from a distance.

Penn State classrooms are left empty as the university switched to remote learning due to COVID-19 concerns.
Min Xian / WPSU

Coronavirus concerns meant a shift to online learning for Penn State students. It was an abrupt end to the school year and, for some of them, to their college experience. 

“This really just blindsided all of us,” said Luke Lacher. 

Lacher is a senior broadcast journalism student at Penn State. Like millions of graduating college seniors around the country, COVID-19 cut off his last semester at school and the life he had known for the last three and a half years. 

A map from the state Department of Health shows how many COVID-19 cases have been counted in each county.
PA Department of Health

An inmate at the Centre County Correctional Facility has tested positive for COVID-19, and a small number of staff and inmates who may have had contact with the inmate are in quarantine, according to a news release from the county Sunday.

The inmate is a Centre County resident who has been in the jail since January. He or she is being housed in a negative airflow room in the facility, and additional testing and contact tracing are being conducted, according to the release.

This is the first case of someone incarcerated at the county facility testing positive for COVID-19.

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

Centre County reported its first coronavirus death Friday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The patient was being treated at Mount Nittany Medical Center, a spokeswoman confirmed, with no additional details. 

As of today, the county has 73 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and there are 29,441 cases statewide.

According to the numbers released by the Department of Health, there are 2,590 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 statewide. In Centre County, there are 22 ventilators available and one of them is in use for treating the disease. 

A string of shirts decorated by survivors of domestic violence hang above the "Empty Place at the Table" exhibit.
Taylor Mason-Little / WPSU

Several advocacy groups in Pennsylvania are warning that isolation during COVID-19 will potentially increase instances of sexual abuse and domestic violence. 

 

WPSU’s Min Xian talked with Jim Willshier of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape about challenges in making sure those who need help can get it. 

 

Emily Reddy / WPSU

For the first time in its 54-year history, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College won’t take place this year.

“This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my years in the workforce,” said Rick Bryant, executive director of the festival, which was slated to take place July 7-11. “We are trying to keep the health and safety of our artists, performers and audience members foremost in mind. We don’t want State College and the Centre region to become known as the petri dish.”

Centre County voted on Tuesday to cut staff because of financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
Min Xian / WPSU

With projected revenue losses in taxes and the responsibility to continue providing services, many Pennsylvania counties are finding themselves under tremendous financial stress. On Tuesday, Centre County Commissioners voted to cut staff, a decision that affects about 100 positions across dozens of departments.

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

 

Penn State will continue holding classes online, not in-person, this summer. The university pointed to the need to protect the health of students and employees as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Penn State is leaving open the possibility of returning to on-campus classes in its second summer session. The university says that decision will be based on guidance from government and health authorities.

The move to online learning applies to all of the university’s campuses.  

 

The Penn Highlands Healthcare systems has five hospitals in rural Pennsylvania. It says it's resuming elective surgeries while continuing safety practices.
Courtesy of Penn Highlands Healthcare

Although Shaun Sheehan, head of Penn Highlands Healthcare’s COVID-19 task force, believes the system’s five rural hospitals have been well equipped to handle the outbreak so far, he worries about the financial pressure the crisis has put on the hospitals.

“We're having significant financial stress related to our outpatient business being cut from as much as 60% of what we have seen historically,” Sheehan said in an interview with WPSU earlier this week. 

The Penn Highlands Healthcare systems has five hospitals in rural Pennsylvania. It says it's resuming elective surgeries while continuing safety practices.
Courtesy of Penn Highlands Healthcare

Urban areas in Pennsylvania have been hardest hit by the coronavirus so far, but rural areas are not immune. 

WPSU’s Min Xian talked with Shaun Sheehan of Penn Highlands Healthcare, which has rural hospitals in DuBois, Brookville, Clearfield, Huntingdon and in Elk County. He’s the head of the hospitals’ COVID-19 task force and says they’re doing their best to prepare for a potential surge of cases.

TRANSCRIPT:

Min Xian: Dr. Shaun Sheehan, thank you for joining me.

Shaun Sheehan: I'm glad to be here.

Gov. Tom Wolf extended the stay-at-home order to the entire state on April 1, 2020.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one seven states in the northeast that announced Monday they'll be working together to come up with a plan to reopen their economies once the spread of COVID-19 is under control.

The announcement came during a joint telephone conference, led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. President Trump tweeted earlier in the day that it is up to him, not the governors, when to reopen the states.

But, when asked about that, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf referred to how state closures have been happening.

What goes into the meal kits the State College Area School District is preparing for families even when school is out.
Megan Schaper / SCASD

As part of Pennsylvania’s efforts to slow down COVID-19, the state’s K-12 schools are closed for the rest of the year. Some school districts, including the State College Area, have stepped in to help families make sure children are still getting enough to eat. WPSU’s Anne Danahy spoke with the district’s food service director, Megan Schaper, about the need, and how she and her staff are meeting it by packing hundreds of meals.  

More information on the State College Area School District program is available on the district's website.

NIrmal Joshi, chief medical officer of Mount Nittany Health
Mount Nittany Health

Nirmal Joshi has been the chief medical officer at Mount Nittany Health since November 2017. He has a background in infectious diseases, and has been helping lead Mount Nittany’s efforts to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Empty Penn State mall
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State will announce within the next few days what format the summer session will take, university Provost Nick Jones said in a town hall Thursday.

Jones said the university will consider challenges and lessons from the spring semester, when the university decided to cancel in-person classes in March.

State officials, like Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, left, want people to social distance while outside.
PA DCNR

Officials in charge of Pennsylvania’s natural resources are encouraging outdoor recreation during the coronavirus shutdown, but they want people to enjoy nature close to home.

Brian Toth is superintendent of the Saint Marys Area School District, at desk.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

UPDATE: Gov. Tom Wolf announced today (April 9) that all K-12 schools will be closed for the rest of the school year as part of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered Pennsylvania’s K through 12 schools to remain closed indefinitely to help slow the spread of COVID-19, school districts, teachers and parents have been trying to make the most of what’s left of the school year.

Dean Lindsey on day 19 of his recovery from COVID-19.
Dean Lindsey

A couple of weeks ago, we talked with State College resident Dean Lindsey, who said he was one of the first people in Centre County to have a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Lindsey is the senior pastor at State College Presbyterian Church.

WPSU checked in with him again to see how he’s doing now. 

TRANSCRIPT:
 

Emily Reddy: Dean Lindsey, thanks for talking with us again.

Pa. Schools Ordered To Remain Closed Until End Of Academic Year

Apr 9, 2020
Outside of the newly renovated Spring Creek Elementary School.
Brittany Krugel / WPSU

Pennsylvania schools will remain shuttered for the rest of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened thousands and caused hundreds of deaths statewide, under an order signed Thursday by the state’s education secretary.

The extended shutdown order affects more than 1.7 million students in public and private K-12 schools. It means children will spend the rest of the year learning remotely.
 

The order applies through the last day of the current academic year, a date that varies among districts because calendars are set by school boards.

State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman
Min Xian / WPSU

State Senator Jake Corman fielded questions on COVID-19 during a telephone town hall Wednesday, pushing back on parts of Gov. Tom Wolf’s response to the pandemic.

Wolf signed an order Wednesday allowing the state to transfer personal protective equipment and other medical supplies from one health care provider to another that needs them.

 

“This will allow us to move key equipment, like personal protective equipment and ventilators to high population, high impact areas," Wolf said.

 

Many business owners who have applied for federal and state loans are still waiting for help to arrive.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania State Police are enforcing Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders for Pennsylvanians to stay at home and for non-life sustaining businesses to close their physical locations as part of the effort to slow down the coronavirus.

A map from the Pennsylvania Department of Health showing COVID-19 cases by county as of April 7, 2020.
Pa Department of Health

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped by 11 in Centre County to a total of 55 and Elk and Jefferson County reported their first cases meaning every county in the state now has at least one confirmed case, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

With Tuesday’s DOH updates, the total number of confirmed cases in Pennsylvania is 14,559. That’s an increase of 1,462 from Monday. 

The report also marked the largest single day’s deaths, with 78 more reported since Monday.

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

A patient with COVID-19 is being cared for at Mount Nittany Medical Center in Centre County, the first at the hospital, according to a news release.

The patient tested positive Wednesday evening. No other details were provided about the situation except that the patient is receiving care. 

In a news release, Chief Medical Officer Nirmal Joshi said the center has "been preparing for months for this situation."

Suboxone is one of the medicines used as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Under new federal guidance to reduce in-person treatment and slow the spread of COVID-19, eligible patients can have up to 28 days of medication.
AP photo

With COVID-19 continuing to spread, there are new treatment protocols for people with substance use disorder. While the state’s providers have been managing the necessary changes, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith said the coronavirus outbreak and substance use disorder are two public health crises that feed each other.

All Of Pennsylvania Now Under Orders To Stay Home

Apr 1, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf extended the stay-at-home order to the entire state on April 1, 2020.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf has placed all of Pennsylvania under an order to stay at home, dramatically expanding the geographic footprint of the quarantine as state officials combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Wolf added 34 counties to his stay-home edict. That means residents of all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties must now stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The State College borough hung banners about the census before Penn State switched to remote learning for the rest of the spring semester.
Min Xian / WPSU

April 1 is Census Day. That means it’s usually where you live on April 1 that you give as your address when you fill out the census

But coronavirus means Penn State students who would usually be in State College are spread far and wide. Penn State and the U.S. Census are trying to get word out that students should still be counted at their school address.  

Hundreds of Penn State students and parents are petitioning landlords of off-campus apartments to provide some rent relief.
Min Xian / WPSU

Mark Naidoff’s daughter is a senior at Penn State. Like most students, she hasn’t returned to her downtown apartment since spring break ended, as the university canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. 

Courtesy Matthew Ferrari

Matthew Ferrari is an epidemiologist and associate professor of biology at Penn State who studies infectious diseases and how they spread across populations. He uses mathematical and statistical tools to understand patterns of disease incidence. He talked with WPSU's Cheraine Stanford about the new coronavirus, what we know, what we don’t and what it means for our community and our country.

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