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Penn State: 226 Additional COVID-19 Cases Among Students

by on September 18, 2020 2:30 PM

Penn State on Friday reported another 226 COVID-19 cases among students attending University Park since its last update on Tuesday.

For the week of Sept. 11-17, the campus has had 320 total cases, though 737 tests are still awaiting results. It marks an increase of 220 since Tuesday's update.

Another six positive results from tests that had been previously pending from Sept. 4-10 brought that week's total to 653.

Results from the past seven days included 306 positives from 1,767 completed tests, with another 395 still awaiting results. Random screening tests yielded 14 positives from 2,480 completed tests, with another 342 awaiting results.

The new cases bring the campus's total to 1,372 since Aug. 7, including one employee case, according to Penn State's updated COVID-19 dashboard.. However, 656 students who tested positive have completed their isolation and are no longer considered active cases.

The dashboard shows 144 students in on-campus isolation and 41 in quarantine. Students may also isolate and quarantine at home or if they have suitable space off-campus residence, according to the university.

President Eric Barron again said the university does not currently plan to shift to fully remote instruction.

“While the random testing numbers appear to be lower than last week, we must remain cautious as we have changed the process for those tests and there are still many test results pending,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “We can maintain on-campus learning and working at this point, but we all have to continue to act safely and responsibly by masking, social distancing and limiting socializing to roommates or a small group of friends who are following the same critical guidance.”

The university's random testing process shifted last week to pooled testing of nasal swabs, meaning students go through a two-stop process before receiving a positive result. Samples are pooled and tested by Penn State's Testing and Surveillance Center and if a pool results in an indeterminate result, all individuals in the pool are referred to University Health Services for further testing.

Results from the second test may take an additional 24-48 hours to return. Students tested at UHS are directed to isolate until results are received.

"The decreasing rate of positivity among random testing results at this time is a reflection of pending results and should not be interpreted as more meaningful than that," a university news release said.

Barron said during Penn State's Board of Trustees meeting on Friday that the university is "always ready to alter our strategy," if metrics for cases, quarantine and isolation capacity, hospital capacity and community spread indicate a need to do so.

He added that the school has multiple possible "off-ramps." Those include suspending use of specific buildings or spaces, quarantine of a particular program, cohort or residence hall, pausing in-person classes for two weeks, or moving all programs online on a sustained basis.

"All of these are important for testing, tracing, mapping, for looking at exactly what is going on at Penn State for us to be able to have the data that we need and to look at off ramps that are focused on health and safety as opposed to a particular on or off switch," he said.

Since Sept. 1, Centre County has added 1,139 new COVID-19 cases, nearly two and half times its total for the months of March through August combined (486). The vast majority of new cases have been in the State College and University Park zip codes and have mostly been tied to Penn State student testing.

For the second consecutive week, Centre County has, by far, the highest incidence rate in the state at 322.5 per 100,000 people for the week of Sept. 11-17, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's early warning monitoring dashboard. The county also has the highest positivity rate for the past week at 12.1%.

The surge in cases in the Centre Region has caused State College Area School District to move to remote learning for the past two weeks.

On Friday, DOH announced a pop-up clinic for free COVID-19 testing will open on Sept. 25 at the Nittany Mall, and that department staff will be working with county and municipal officials on localized mitigation recommendations.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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