Coronavirus

While some members of the Penn State community are wary of the university's return to in-person classes, some believe vaccines may make transition safer.
Jade Campos / WPSU

  

As more and more of the country gets vaccinated against coronavirus, many Penn Staters are feeling hopeful about the upcoming in-person school year. Others point to the current upswing in COVID cases and say it’s too soon.

Saturday kicked off the first day of the four day COVID-19 vaccination clinic hosted by the Central Intermediate Unit 10.
Jade Campos / WPSU

  

Teachers, nurses, principals and other school staff from Centre, Clearfield and Clinton counties began arriving at Mount Nittany Middle School at 8 a.m. Saturday for a special COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Employees received Johnson & Johnson single-dose shots that Governor Tom Wolf earmarked exclusively for K-12 school employees and childcare workers.

The State College Area School District Operations Director Randy Brown said hundreds have scheduled appointments during the four-day clinic.

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 

A line outside Doggie's Pub on Pugh Street in State College July 11, 2020.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

State Patty’s Day always leads to increased partying and drinking in State College. The pandemic makes concerns higher over gatherings in State College. 

State College Mayor Ronald Filippelli said bars will see few changes since there are already COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Filippelli believes apartments and rental houses will pose the greatest threat this weekend with a chance for large gatherings.

A male voter at a voting booth with a "Vote" sign
Alex Brandon / AP

 

The U.S. Census Bureau said Friday that it will get redistricting data to the states by the end of September, not the end of March as originally planned, a hold up that Pennsylvania Republican leaders say could lead to a delay in next year’s primary.

 

“When you’re making decisions in life, it’s always good to have information as early as you can," said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, who is one of the Republicans who will serve on the state’s redistricting commission.

 

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

Monday is the first day of in-person classes for Penn State students. To slow the spread of the virus, the university is requiring students to be re-tested after arriving back on campus for the semester. 

All students living on or off-campus who are registered for in-person classes are required to take the arrival test.

Students living in the State College area are also required to take the test even if their classes are fully remote.

Penn State THON executive leaders have been preparing to make the transition to a virtual event all year. While things will look different, they're hoping THON will look as close to normal as possible.
Sam Koon / Penn State THON

THON starts this Friday. Most years, thousands of Penn State students gather in the Bryce Jordan Center for the 46-hour dance marathon to raise money for families affected by childhood cancer. But because of COVID-19, this year’s event will look very different.

Mary Illicete learned her daughter had cancer in 2014, when Theresa was 9 years old. Illicete says she watched the disease steal away her daughter’s childhood. But she was able to get part of it back through THON.

“There's almost no way to describe it because it's very special," Illicete said.

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

Penn State students will return to in-person classes next Monday, as the country is bracing for a faster-spreading COVID-19 variant to become dominant.

 

The B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus -- also known as the U.K. variant -- has already been detected in more than 30 states, including Pennsylvania. The Centers for Disease Control expects it to become the dominant variant in March.

 

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.”

Pennsylvania Confirms Virus Resurges; No Plans For Lockdown

Oct 15, 2020
CDC

Pennsylvania is “at the start of the fall resurgence” of COVID-19, the state’s health secretary said Wednesday, but does not plan to reimpose a stay-at-home order or shut down businesses again in response.

Wednesday marked the ninth consecutive day that Pennsylvania’s daily case count surpassed 1,000, and the average daily number of new confirmed cases is up by more than 50% over the past two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

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