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 Gov. Tom Wolf
Julio Cortez / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) — With daily cases near an all-time high and hospitals pushed to capacity, Pennsylvania is under new orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the updated public health mandates during an online news conference Thursday afternoon.

“The measures I’m announcing today are intended to be temporary,” Wolf said. The new measures take effect Saturday and continue through Jan. 4. “For the next three weeks, please, I ask all my fellow Pennsylvanians to stand with me against COVID.”

New measures include:

Outside of Mount Nittany Medical Center showing sign.
Min Xian / WPSU

The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 broke new records both statewide and in State College Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Wednesday that more than 5,500 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

While many school districts in Pennsylvania are moving to remote learning as COVID-19 cases rise, some central Pennsylvania districts are keeping classes in person, at least for now.

Julio Cortez / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf says he’s tested positive for COVID-19.

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. On the same day, Penn Highlands Healthcare said it expects to receive its first batch of vaccines in two weeks.
AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

Penn Highlands Healthcare announced Tuesday it expects to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in two weeks. Frontline staff will get vaccinated first to make sure they can continue caring for patients, according to the healthcare system of six hospitals in rural Central Pennsylvania.

In a press call Tuesday, Andrew Kurtz, the vaccination lead for Penn Highlands, said the healthcare system has been coordinating internally and with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to prepare to distribute vaccines to its staff.

Pennsylvania Hospital Beds Filling Up Amid Virus Surge

Dec 3, 2020

Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched to the limit as Pennsylvania’s health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Nearly half of all hospitals in the south-central region of the state, and a third of those in the southwest, anticipate staffing shortages within a week, according to the state Department of Health. Nurses in the Philadelphia area say they’re overloaded with COVID-19 patients, impacting the quality of care they can provide.

This map projects the broadband internet coverage in McKean County when its current improvement project completes by the end of 2020. Areas in red will have the highest speeds and areas in blue and green will receive at least 25 Mbps in download speeds.
Courtesy of McKean County

Lack of access to broadband internet is a long-existing issue in many parts of Pennsylvania. The pandemic has proven how critical it is, as schools have moved online and remote work has become a way of life.

Andrew "Andy" Isola, from Port Matilda in Centre County, smiling and sitting with his daughter, Kristi Morgan.
Jim Isola

Andrew "Andy" Isola, from Port Matilda in Centre County, died from complications with COVID-19 on Oct. 27. He was 77. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with his son, Jim Isola, about what his father was like and why he tells everyone to be safe.


Anne Danahy: Jim Isola, thank you so much for talking with us. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

Jim Isola: Oh, no, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Anne Danahy: Can you tell us a little bit about your father, Andrew, Andy, Isola What was he like?

Rendering of new nursing home
Centre Care

All but one county in Pennsylvania now has a “substantial” level of community spread of COVID-19, according to the state. As community transmission continues to grow, long term care facilities are seeing a surge of cases as well.

In this Nov. 11, 2020, file photo, a medical worker operates a testing tent at a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
John Minchillo, File / AP Photo

Pennsylvania is reporting 9,797 new COVID-19 cases and 107 deaths for Sunday and Monday. That brings the statewide case total to 361,464, and the death toll to 10,383 people.

More people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania than during the peak of the surge last spring, according to data shared by the state’s Department of Health Monday.

The Altoona Area School District is building a new, $88 million high school.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

During a special meeting Tuesday night, the Altoona Area School District Board of Directors voted 5 to 4 to approve a shift to fully remote instruction beginning next Tuesday.

The decision comes as the state government has tightened COVID-19 mitigation policies intended to curb growing cases across Pennsylvania.

The vote means all 12 schools in the Altoona Area School District will be online until Feb. 1 or until Blair County sees two consecutive weeks of a disease transmission level that’s less than the current “substantial” level.

Outdoor dining at Parc on Rittenhouse Square.
Emma Lee / WHYY

As Pennsylvania heads into Thanksgiving week, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced new enforcement measures aimed at businesses, schools and the biggest drinking night of the year.

Businesses will now be penalized if they do not force customers to wear masks indoors, following an existing health advisory.

“If they come inside, they need to follow the procedures,” said Wolf. “We have those signs that say ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service. Well, no mask, no service.”

The Blair County Courthouse sits on Allegheny Street in Hollidaysburg, PA.
Min Xian / WPSU

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Blair County, local leaders are encouraging residents to follow precautions and take advantage of the free testing the state Department of Health has set up at the Blair County Convention Center.

Bruce Erb, chairman of the Blair County Commissioners, said the site at the Convention Center has been very busy — 500 to 600 tests a day.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU

As Penn State wraps up the in-person portion of the fall semester this week, 236 students university-wide have tested positive for COVID-19 from 15,600 departure tests conducted since Nov. 12, according to a release from the university Friday.

More than 5,500 results are still pending at University Park, where the majority of departure tests were administered. Penn State says results can take up to 48 hours or more and tests administered later in the week will be included in next Tuesday’s dashboard update.

Volunteers pack food for the YMCA of Centre County's Anti-Hunger Program.
Carolyn Donaldson

YMCAs in Centre County have provided meals to kids and families in need throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But recently, there’s been an increase in need and they’re having trouble keeping up.

Mel Curtis is the Anti-Hunger Director for Centre County YMCAs. Curtis said people are seeking out YMCA food assistance in similar numbers to the beginning of the pandemic.

“They’re facing that food insecurity problem, and with the holidays coming up, it’s making it a lot worse," Curtis said.

Reem Abdou poses for a picture in front of the Nittany Lion Shrine.
Reem Abdou

Friday is the last day of in-person classes for Penn State’s fall semester. Some students plan to head home for the rest of the semester while others are returning after Thanksgiving break. Students also shared what they’re doing to try not to bring the coronavirus home to their families.

Senior civil engineering student John Kosko contracted the coronavirus at Penn State in late September. Now healthy for over a month, Kosko said his family in New Jersey is comfortable with having him home for Thanksgiving.

Coronavirus Prevents Crowds From Seeing Punxsutawney Phil

Nov 19, 2020
Barry Reeger / Associated Press

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic means Groundhog Day won't be the same in a Pennsylvania town long associated with a prognosticating rodent.

Organizers said Punxsutawney Phil will predict whether spring will come early or winter will last longer in 2021 without the usual crowds who gather at Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill just outside the town about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.

Students outside of State College Area High School on Jan. 8, 2018.
Min Xian / WPSU

The State College Area School District is switching to entirely remote learning after Thanksgiving through Dec. 14, as it faces staff absences due to COVID-19 and the expectation of an increase in cases after Thanksgiving.

The school district made the announcement Thursday, saying it has reached a "tipping point."

“For weeks, we have been struggling with staffing due to absences related to COVID-19 in addition to usual illnesses,” the message from Superintendent Bob O’Donnell reads.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health's COVID-19 map of Pennsylvania shows daily caseloads by county. Cambria County had reached 2,663 cases as of Nov. 19, 2020.
Pennsylvania Department of Health

Pennsylvania continues to set new daily records for COVID-19 cases, and those increases aren’t just happening in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and State College. Counties in the center of the state are seeing spikes and asking everyone to follow social distancing guidelines over the holidays.

Dr. Elizabeth Dunmore is chief medical officer at Conemaugh Health System, which serves Cambria and surrounding counties.

She said their message now is the same that it has been: wear a mask, social distance, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home if you could be sick.

Brick exterior shot of The Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School
The Hollidaysburg Area School District


A growing number of school districts in central and northcentral Pennsylvania are switching schools to remote learning, even if temporarily, as COVID-19 case numbers in that part of the state increase sharply.

Brick exterior shot of The Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School
The Hollidaysburg Area School District

The Hollidaysburg Area School District in Blair County is moving its junior and senior high to totally virtual learning Monday as COVID-19 cases in the community increase.


The plan is to return to school Dec. 1.

Photo of the outside of the Penn Highlands DuBois hospital
Penn Highlands Healthcare

Penn Highlands Healthcare, which has six rural hospitals in Central Pennsylvania, reopened its dedicated COVID-19 unit last week due to rising case numbers, hospital administrators told reporters during a call Thursday.

The unit in the DuBois hospital was closed in May because it wasn’t needed as cases decreased, head of Penn Highlands Healthcare’s COVID-19 task force, Shaun Sheehan, said. 

File photo of a mobile COVID-19 test site on Penn State University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is urging students to get tested for COVID-19 before the university transitions to fully remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester on November 20.

In a webinar Tuesday, the director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Kelly Wolgast, said free departure testing for all students is voluntary but highly recommended. More than 6,000 University Park students have already scheduled one.

Outside of Mount Nittany Medical Center showing sign.
Min Xian / WPSU


The number of new COVID-19 cases in Centre County has been going down recently, but at the same time, hospitalizations are up.


Nirmal Joshi, chief medical officer at Mount Nittany Health, said that throughout October, Mount Nittany Medical Center saw a significant increase in hospitalized patients.

Recently, the hospital has has 15, 16 or even 19 COVID patients at one time. That is up from two or three at a time.


Broadcast Journalism student Anan Hussein was the only in-person student for Photojournalism with Professor Will Yurman on October 8, 2020. The rest of the class attended on Zoom. On some occasions, none of the class's 13 students were in person.
Will Yurman


In July, Penn State president Eric Barron announced that nearly half of the university’s classes this fall would have some in-person component. But since the start of the semester, attendance for some of those in-person classes has dropped substantially. 


Old Main, the Penn State administrations building on the University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Twice a week, Penn State updates a public website that lists the number of COVID-19 cases on its campuses, but one thing Penn State does not include is information about whether any of those students are hospitalized.

While Penn State offers general information about the number of COVID cases among students and employees, it does not include hospitalizations. Instead, a spokeswoman said, that would be “up to the hospital.”

There won't be any fans in the stands to rush the field if Penn State upsets Ohio State Saturday, like they did in this Oct. 22, 2016 file photo.
Emily Reddy / WPSU


On Saturday, Penn State’s football team will host the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university is providing on-campus students with new and safe ways to watch the game. 

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania health officials say a growing majority of people contracting the coronavirus in Pennsylvania aren't answering basic questions that would help case investigators trace the source of the infections.

The rising lack of cooperation with case investigators comes as Pennsylvania’s positivity rate, number of infections and coronavirus-related hospitalizations are on the rise.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU


More than one in 10 Penn State University Park students who returned to State College for the fall semester has now had COVID-19, a WPSU analysis finds. 

Warren's Businesses Dealt With A Summer Of Uncertainty

Oct 19, 2020
Businesses in downtown Warren were quieter this summer because of coronavirus concerns. This file photo shows Warren from WPSU's Our Town episode in 2013.

This summer, WPSU partnered with students in Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications to look at how towns in central Pennsylvania are doing in the run-up to the presidential election. 

In Warren, Pennsylvania, as in many towns this summer, coronavirus concerns and shutdowns made main streets quieter than usual.

Charlie Kox owns Allegheny Antiques, which is in downtown Warren. Kox said he’d been fortunate to keep his business alive during the Pandemic.