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.

Map of PA counties with stay-at-home orders as of March 28, 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf extended Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order to include Centre County on Saturday as the number of cases in the county and state continues to rise. Wolf didn’t give specific reasons why Centre County was added, but the order is part of efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The Department of Health announced the number of confirmed cases in Centre County is now at 15. The expansion of this order brings the total number of counties up to 22 and also includes Beaver and Washington Counties. 

 

Hotel State College laid off its entire staff as it shut down all of its bars, restaurants and a small hotel due to the coronavirus.
Min Xian / WPSU

On the Friday morning after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered all businesses that are not considered “life-sustaining” to close their physical locations, Todd Colocino received the news that he was laid off. 

The certified welding inspector for a civil engineering firm in State College has been laid off before during the Great Recession. But this time he feels less certain.

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

An employee at one of Mount Nittany Health’s outpatient practices has tested positive for COVID-19, the health care system said Friday.

Mount Nittany did not provide details about the case. But, it says since the symptoms were recognized, the employee has been at home. Mount Nittany says it has notified any coworkers who could have been exposed and they're being monitored. 

"Mount Nittany Health has completed a detailed review to determine any potential patient exposure and has completed appropriate follow up as needed," the release says.

Businesses on Walnut Street in Center City Philadelphia are boarded up during non-essential business shutdown orders aimed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Beginning this week, Pennsylvania state police and several other state and local agencies have the authority to forcibly shut down businesses that violate Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus prevention orders.

But, officials say, they’re trying hard not to use it.

Centre County introduced new ES&S voting machines in the primary on May 21, 2019.
Min Xian / WPSU

(Harrisburg) — The bill delaying Pennsylvania’s primary until June 2 is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

The measure cleared the state Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous votes Wednesday afternoon. Wolf on Wednesday said he will sign it, and could do so as soon as Wednesday.

The bill would postpone Pennsylvania’s presidential primary for 2020 only. House lawmakers approved an amended version on Tuesday afternoon.

Outside view of empty Penn State HUB-Robeson Center
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is telling most of its employees and staff to plan to work from home for the rest of the semester.

 

The university had already directed faculty and staff to begin working remotely as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. That decision came in light of Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 19 order that businesses that aren’t life-sustaining close.

 

A view of the University Park campus after Penn State switched to remote learning in response to COVID-19.
Min Xian / WPSU

The first case of COVID-19 on the University Park campus has been confirmed, according to the university.

Penn State President Eric Barron, speaking Tuesday to an online town hall meeting, noted that campus is largely deserted, with most employees working from home. 

"So in that sense, the risk of transmission, community transmission, is limited," Barron said.

Still, Barron said, the Office of Physical Plant will follow all Department of Health guidelines to make sure buildings remain safe.

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

Penn State will not lay off employees at least through the end of April, although faculty and staff won’t get pay increases this year, university leaders said during a town hall Tuesday.

 

The university is also planning for the possibility of continuing remote learning through summer semester, as COVID-19’s reach across Pennsylvania and the country grows.

 

Dean Lindsey shared a picture on Facebook on March 21, 2020 of the items on his bedside table in quarantine in his State College house.
Dean Lindsey

The number of cases of COVID-19 has been growing across the state and on Friday the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported the first confirmed case in Centre County. By Monday, that number was up to three. WPSU’s Emily Reddy talked with Dean Lindsey, who says he’s one of the first positive cases in Centre County. Lindsey is the Senior Pastor at State College Presbyterian Church in State College. 
 

Emily Reddy: Well, first, how did you catch COVID-19?

U.S. Representative Fred Keller is calling on the federal Bureau of Prisons to not transfer inmates from other states into Pennsylvania as the reach of COVID-19 continues to expand.

Keller wrote to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons asking it to stop transferring inmates, especially from the hard-hit state New York.

But on Monday, Keller said his understanding is prisoners were in transit to federal institutions in Pennsylvania. Specifically, the U.S prisons at Lewisburg and Canaan and the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood.

Gov. Wolf Extends School Closures Until Early April, Issues Stay-at-home Order For 7 Counties

Mar 23, 2020
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Friday that 24 counties in northwest and north-central parts of the state will be the first to reopen in a limited capacity starting May 8.
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 that schools remain closed until early April and issued a stay-at-home order for the seven counties that have been hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

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.”

The HUB Robeson Center was mostly empty as Penn State canceled in-person classes due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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.”

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