Coronavirus

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour taking off a face mask at the beginning of an online press conference Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour said during a news conference Wednesday that no student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 so far out of 102 tested.

Barbour said Athletics will report its results publicly every two weeks. She said that will happen at least until students return for the fall semester, and then will be reevaluated.

The university has said it will make its overall testing results data public.

State High building
Min Xian / WPSU

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, families in the State College Area School District will decide whether to send their children to school in person or have them learn online at home.

Like other school districts in Pennsylvania, State College is planning how it will teach students when the new school year begins in the fall. The board reviewed those plans during a meeting Monday night.

A "now hiring" banner from before the coronavirus hit still hangs outside The Corner Room in downtown State College.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

In keeping with federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines, college students in Pennsylvania will be counted where they’re actually living and plan to live for most of the year — not their permanent home addresses.

 

That will help towns like Lock Haven, Bradford and State College — where Penn State’s main campus is — see if COVID-19 cases are climbing.

 

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Centre County has gone up by 11, a tie with April 7 for the largest jump the county has seen in one day.

According to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health, there are 181 confirmed cases and 14 probable cases in Centre County, for a total of 195.

Penn State president Eric Barron
Ralph Wilson / AP Photo

Penn State plans to convert the Nittany Lion Inn into an isolation residence for students who have or have been exposed to COVID-19, and football fans should not expect to fill a crowded stadium in the fall even if fall sports resume.

Those were some of the topics Penn State President Eric Barron covered during a virtual town hall meeting for faculty and staff Monday.

The Nittany Lion Inn conversion will mean 79 layoffs. But, he said, most employees who the university had previously furloughed will be brought back in August.

 

A Penn State team known as Data For Action is asking Centre County residents to complete a survey about COVID-19 that's part of a larger project aimed at measuring the virus’s health, economic and social impacts on the county.

 

Meg Small, with the Social Science Research Institute, said having local data will mean better understanding the impact of the coronavirus to help decide how to respond.

 

Selena Ortiz and her colleagues surveyed 906 municipalities in Pennsylvania in May and published a report on how local officials handled the coronavirus.
Photo provided

The state government has taken a leading role in deciding Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus. But when it comes to enforcing protocols and communicating with residents, local municipalities have been providing much of the support. 

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

 

As Penn State gets ready to return to on-campus classes this fall, many faculty don’t think in-person teaching will be safe and are calling on the university for more information about how its plans will work.

 

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

 

For Penn State, it’s back to school in person this fall.

 

In an email sent to Penn State students and employees Sunday, the university said that it plans to return to on-campus classes. The email from President Eric Barron emphasized the priority the univeristy puts on health and safety. It comes at a time when experts warn of the chance of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, possibly in the fall.

Courtesy Brandon Ogbunu

Brandon Ogbunu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. He uses experimental evolution, mathematical modeling, and computational biology to better understand diseases. He is interested in the interactions of epidemics, evolution, and society.

He talked with WPSU's Cheraine Stanford about his latest novel coronavirus research and the interactions between race, social justice, and COVID-19.

Calls made to report suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania continued to be significantly lower than usual in May.
Min Xian / WPSU

Calls made to report suspected child abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine continued to be significantly lower than usual in May, the state Department of Human Services said Thursday. They said the drastic decrease in calls over the past two months resulted from closed schools amid the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said ChildLine, the state’s hotline for reports of suspected child abuse, received more than 14,000 calls in May, which was 40% lower than last year. In April, the decline was 50%. 

Participants in "Justice for Black Lives" march Sunday, June 7, 2020, in State College, Pa.
Min Xian / WPSU

When Penn State announced the phased return of athletes, the university said students are required to practice safety measures, including wearing face masks in public, observing social distancing and avoiding large groups.

 

Penn State began bringing athletes back to campus Monday, starting with 75 football players. Some players were among the participants in a “Justice for Black Lives” rally held Sunday in State College.

 

Sascha Meinrath, the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State, talked about the digital divide in the time of COVID-19.
Photo provided

Increasingly, our daily lives are online, especially during the coronavirus shutdown. But access to the internet is not always equal, which was exacerbated by the shutdown. And the privacy implications of our online lives are sometimes an afterthought.

State College Area students driving in a red car, participated in the Senior Parade on May 27, 2020.
Min Xian / WPSU

  

In March, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered Pennsylvania’s K through 12 schools closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That meant high school students had to adjust to a new “normal” of learning remotely. 

For Ronit Patel, a senior at State College Area High School who is also a musician, that has meant turning to music.

“To let out all my frustrations about quarantine and stuff, I just sing. I belt my heart out and sing," Patel said. "And, I feel like it’s really helped me stay kind of positive in this horrible, horrible time.” 

In-person turnout for the primary election Tuesday was low in Centre County.
Min Xian / WPSU

In-person turnout for the primary election Tuesday was low in Centre County. Many voters opted to vote by mail, an option significantly expanded last year and especially encouraged because of COVID-19.

Jordan Emely is a judge of elections in State College. About ten percent of the voters registered in his precinct had sent in their mail-in ballots before the primary. 

Primary election results are completed a week after the election. More than half of all votes cast in Centre County were mailed ballots.
Min Xian / WPSU

Tuesday is primary election day in Pennsylvania, which the state postponed from April because of the coronavirus. Besides the date change, this year’s primary will also feel different with potentially longer lines at polling places even though fewer voters are expected to show up. 

Denise Meyer, an election judge in Centre County, said she’ll be working at her precinct in Ferguson Township for the primary, because she feels an obligation.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that Centre County will move from the yellow to the green phase of reopening this Friday. Centre County Commissioners voted unanimously earlier Tuesday to ask Wolf to move up the county's reopening, after first asking him to delay it until June 5

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said it will begin a phased reopening for all state correctional facilities next Tuesday. SCI Rockview, like others, will see some coronavirus restrictions lifted.
Min Xian / WPSU

A phased reopening process for Pennsylvania state prisons will begin next Tuesday and all 25 state correctional facilities will see some coronavirus restrictions lifted, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Friday.

Ernie Chamberlain

 WPSU asked you, our listeners, to tell us how you were getting along during the pandemic lockdown. Here are some of the ways you’ve been getting through it.

Evie Madison of Altoona is pastor of Wehnwood United Methodist Church in Altoona. She was busy becoming tech savvy early on in the pandemic.  She learned to record and edit video so she could bring Sunday services to her shut in congregation.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health graphic urges people to "Know the Symptoms of COVID-19," which can be spread through close contact.
PA Department of Health

 

It’s a warm spring night in State College, and Penn State students are gathering in yards and on porches. There’s music. There’s beer pong. But, social distancing and face masks? Not so much.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State moved its summer classes online, and most students aren’t in town. That doesn’t mean student socilializing has disappeared.

 

State College police say they’re focused on educating partiers about the coronavirus safety guidelines.

 

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

Citing a significant loss of patient volume and revenue shortfall, Mount Nittany Health, which has medical facilities, outpatient centers and physician group locations in Centre, Mifflin and Lycoming Counties, said it will eliminate approximately 50 positions over the next three weeks. 

Eric Barron
Ralph Wilson, File / AP Photo

Penn State is still aiming to bring students back to its campuses in the fall, and is coming up with plans for how to do that safely. That was one of the topics during a virtual town hall university leaders held Tuesday.

  

Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims is leading a task force focused on the return to campus and community.

 

A Penn State parking sign in a "Red" lot on campus explains parking restrictions.
Penn State Transportation Services

  

While most Penn State employees are currently working from home, they're going to continue to pay for their on-campus parking permits, the university announced.

The university will keep deducting parking fees from the paychecks of faculty and staff who are receiving their full salaries. Employees pay $37 a month for a typical parking permit at University Park.

Sixth grader Lauren Dawson doing schoolwork at home on a computer.
Mike Dawson

You’ve probably heard stories about what it means to be an adult working from home or out of work. But, what’s it like being a young person out of school? K through 12 students have been at home since March, and WPSU talked with some of those students from central Pennsylvania about what they think of not going to back for the rest of school year and what they’re looking forward to.

Here's some of what they had to say:

My name is Lauren Dawson. I’m in sixth grade, and I go to Mount Nittany Middle School. (Centre County)

Chambersburg, Pa. which has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, is in a county where state lawmakers are pushing for a faster reopening of the economy.
Jeffrey Stockbridge for Keystone Crossroads

Rodrigo Ortiz has been trying to sound the alarm about COVID-19. At the end of April, he stood outside of a coronavirus testing site in downtown Chambersburg wearing a white face mask and turned on Facebook Live.

“There’s a lot of people who think nothing will happen to them, and keep getting together, keep having parties,” he said in Spanish into the camera, before imploring residents of the borough to stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

“Sixty percent of people here are testing positive, and the majority are Hispanics,” he continued, with emotion.

A teacher reads to kids at Step by Step School for Early Learning in State College, Pa.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

In some ways, Rachel Johnson is grateful for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s mid-March business shutdown order: it took the agonizing decision over whether to close the child care center she runs with her husband out of their hands.

“It was sad and scary, but in a way, easy, because the choice was made for us,” said Johnson, 36, who runs Step by Step School for Early Learning in Centre County. “It was like, ‘Ok, we have to close.’ There was nothing to think about.”

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a house
Business Wire

Green energy businesses had been seeing growth, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

“We’re all doing the best we can in the new normal here,” said Kevin Gombotz, vice president of Envinity, a green design and construction company.

Screen shot of the Zoom home page
Anne Danahy

After getting hit by Zoom bombings ranging from disruptive to disturbing, Penn State is tightening the security defaults on the platform.

 

“There’s whole groups of people going around, and they’re literally searching for Zoom links so they can come in later and bomb them. There’s whole chatrooms dedicated to bombing Zoom meetings, believe it or not," said Richard Sparrow, acting chief information security officer at Penn State.

 

The gym at SCI Huntingdon has been converted to an infirmary that houses inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Pa. Dept. of Corrections

The State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon reported Tuesday that 136 inmates and 38 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, the largest number among all Pennsylvania state prisons. 

Statewide, 202 inmates and 142 state prison employees have tested positive, according to the DOC. The department began a statewide inmate quarantine in March and said it has implemented temperature checks for anyone entering state prisons and improved on the turnaround time of test results, which is now within 24 hours.

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

 

Penn State has seen a drop in the number of international and in-state students applying.

 

“Admissions for summer and fall 2020 are, of course, a critical part of our budgeting and our success,” said university President Eric Barron on Friday.

 

He was speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on admissions during a university trustees meeting.

 

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