Centre County

Stephanie Swindle / Penn State School of Music

The Penn's Woods Music Festival is a decades-long tradition: a professional festival held each year in June on Penn State’s University Park Campus. Like so many events, it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. And it couldn’t be held in June this year, either, due to pandemic restrictions.  But at the end of June, hope was suddenly on the horizon.

“We had been looking at all the restrictions starting to lift,” said Russell Bloom, assistant director of Penn State’s School of Music. 

Bloom said Penn State’s School of Music put all kinds of options on the table.

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

Starting this fall, students and staff in the State College Area School District who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 will not have to wear masks inside, while those who have not been vaccinated will, under a plan approved by the school board Monday night.

 

The 7-2 vote followed a lengthy discussion by the board and a contentious public comment period, with some parents booing during the meeting. Other parents spoke in support of the board, with some asking the district to go further and require everyone to wear a mask.

 

Slot machines could be part of a proposed casino.
Associated Press

Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in on the casino a company wants to run in the Nittany Mall, in College Township, Centre County, during a hearing the state Gaming Control Board has scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Penn Stater Conference Center.

In 2017, municipalities in Pennsylvania could decide whether they wanted to allow mini-casinos in their borders. College Township did not opt out.

State College police truck
Anne Danahy / WPSU

A new report published Tuesday recommended significant changes to Centre County’s police departments.

The Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color spent eight months reviewing local police data and practices from six different departments, including State College, Bellefonte, and Penn State’s campus police.

State and county officials like Steve D'Ettorre (left) and Mark Higgins (right) gathered Wednesday to highlight relief funding that will help local businesses recover from the pandemic.
Matt DiSanto / WPSU

State officials traveled to State College Wednesday to highlight relief funding that aims to help businesses get back on their feet as the pandemic subsides.

Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) will distribute $1.8 million to 86 Centre County businesses this summer. The average grant is worth about $21,000.

Centre County Community Conferencing seeks to be an alternative to the court system with conflict resolution through conversations. It's a tool that's been successful in other parts of the country and the world.
Caryn Blanchard / Centre County Community Conferencing

  

 A noisy party, a crumbling fence or a stolen candy bar could lead to a call to the local police. Centre County Community Conferencing would rather you call them.

Caryn Blanchard is the program coordinator for the project. She describes the process as an “intentional dialogue” where the people in conflict talk about their issue with the help of a facilitator.

Holly Foy / Acoustic Brew

 (UPDATE: The Acoustic Brew concert mentioned in this story, scheduled for Sunday, May 30, has been cancelled due to weather.)

As the pandemic begins to recede, cultural organizations are navigating ever-changing guidelines for performers and audiences. We spoke with three arts organizations who’ve taken different approaches as they strive to get back to normal.

Mason Strouse is a board member and director of communications at Clearfield Arts Studio Theatre, called “CAST” for short.

A New Wave Of Election Directors Step In To Fill Pa.'s Many Vacancies

May 18, 2021
Bob Morgan, the Luzerne County election director, talks about how to set up and use a voting machine during a recent training class. A new crop of election directors will be in place for Tuesday's primary, but with uneven training.
FRED A. ADAMS / For Spotlight PA

This article is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republishing policy.

HARRISBURG — Among the most stressed-out folks in local government this week will be the former manager of the USA Field Hockey team, a congressman’s past chief of staff, and an ex-political science professor.

Township manager Adam Pribulka standing in the road in front of a house pointing to snow melting into a drain pipe.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

David Pribulka, manager of Ferguson Township in Centre County, stood on a suburban street in late February, as snow melted and ran down a drain. The township recently adopted a stormwater fee, and he was pointing to one of the projects the fee will help pay for: a badly needed improvement to a drainage way. 

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

 

The Biden Administration is considering changing how many people have to live somewhere for it to count as a metropolitan area. That could have a big impact on Pennsylvania, experts testified during a public hearing hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Wednesday.

Linda Mantz / courtesy of the artist

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of the past pandemic year. For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a Milesburg resident who teaches yoga for addiction recovery. She talks about the effect of the pandemic on the recovery community.

“I’m in what I would call long-term recovery now,” Linda Mantz said. “But I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.”

Mantz of is retired from Penn State, where she taught Human Development and worked as a counselor.

“I am grateful to be celebrating over 30 years of recovery this year,” she said.

Jim Welsh / courtesy of Jim Welsh

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past year for our series, Pandemic, Year One. For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a bicycle mechanic from State College who was lost his job due to COVID-19, then started his own business.

“I’ve always had a way with bicycles and a love for mechanical things. You know, take them apart, figure out how they work, that kind of thing.”

Jim Welsh of State College said he’s been working as a bicycle mechanic since he was about 14 years old.  He enjoys riding, too, around local trials.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, one out of every 12 residents in Centre County has tested positive for COVID-19.
Pennsylvania Department of Health / Pennsylvania Department of Health

Saturday marked one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Centre County. 

Nearly 14,000 Centre County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That’s about one out of every 12 residents.

courtesy of Katy Stager

In recent weeks, we’ve asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past pandemic year. WPSU’s Kristine Allen brings us their stories.  This is the first installment of our series, “Pandemic: Year One.”  Today she talks with a mother of four who has been trying to keep her family safe while dealing with social isolation and trying to stay positive.

“When we were looking back, we kind of referred to that week, our last vacation, as the week the world stopped.”

Patricia Best and Leslie Laing are members of the State College/Centre County Task Force on Mental Health Crisis Services.
Patricia Best photo by Chuck Fong; Leslie Laing photo provided

A task force spent a year looking at mental health crisis services in State College and Centre County. Members of the task force Patricia Best and Leslie Laing talked with WPSU about the current state of those services, the challenges service providers face and the recommended changes for reform. Here's their conversation.

Min Xian: Welcome to Take Note on WPSU. I’m Min Xian.

A a technician sitting above a manhole next to a red cone installs a flow meter into the university's sewage network.
Michael Shreve / Penn State

A team of Penn State researchers is using wastewater testing to track the rise and fall of the COVID-19 virus in the State College area. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, about the project. Here's their conversation. 

Anne Danahy 

Andrew Read, thank you for talking with us.

Andrew Read 

Sure.

Anne Danahy 

Every year, the Governor of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly have to agree on budget. But this year, lawmakers are also tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to that are hot button issues including the outcome of the presidential election and legislative redistricting. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with two elected leaders from Centre County: Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff.

TRANSCRIPT

Maeve and Jackie Elliot began the fight for backyard chickens in the summer of 2020. After two drafts of the ordinance, Maeve's chickens are finally legal in the township.
College Township via Zoom / College Township

College Township in Centre County unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday night on residential chickens, making it possible to own the farm animals as pets. 

The fight for backyard chickens began last July when 10-year-old Maeve Elliot began raising hens during the pandemic.

The Elliot family bought the pets without knowing they weren’t allowed. The previous ordinance restricted farm animals from residential properties less than 10 acres.

Maeve said the hens have been good for her mental health.

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. 

Cory Miller, executive director of the University Area Joint Authority, stands in front of one phase of the authority's solar array project.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

If you’re thinking about getting solar panels on your home or business, the local wastewater authority is probably not the first place you would call. But a wastewater agency in Centre County that’s looking to help more people go solar might be a good place to start.

Rev. Dr. Donna King standing inside the St. Paul AME Church in Bellefonte
Cheraine Stanford / WPSU

 

Pastor of Bellefonte’s St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Dr. Donna King, died on Jan. 7. King was known for her work in preserving local black history. 

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.

Matt Slocum / Associated Press

A major winter storm is bringing heavy snow and sleet to Pennsylvania. Winter storm warnings continue through Thursday morning for most of the state.

"The worst of the storm is actually going to be Wednesday night into early Thursday morning," said Marisa Ferger, a meteorologist at Penn State. "It’s going to make for some very dangerous travel. So if you do have to drive, I would suggest doing it earlier in the day because it is going to be falling very fast and very hard."

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.

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.

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.

In this file photo, marchers participate in a May 31, 2020, protest in State College against police brutality and racism.
Min Xian / WPSU

A State College community group that’s been pushing for police reform is encouraging members of the public to voice their opinions at a public hearing the borough is holding Monday night for its 2021 proposed budget, including police funding.

“The police officers are supposed to serve and protect the community, and as of now, we don’t feel as if they’re doing that," said Tierra Williams, co-chair of the 3/20 Coalition, a local group pushing for police reforms. 

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.

TRANSCRIPT

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.

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.

Pages