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Penn State Reports 150 New COVID-19 Cases at University Park

by on November 17, 2020 4:21 PM

As the in-person portion of Penn State's fall semester winds down, the university reported an increase in new COVID-19 positives in its semi-weekly update on Tuesday.

Penn State's updated COVID-19 dashboard shows 145 new COVID-19 cases among students and five among employees at University Park. The 150 new cases mark an uptick from the 112 reported in Friday's update. Student testing numbers include voluntary departure testing being conducted ahead of Thanksgiving break and a switch to remote learning.

Tuesday's numbers bring the campus community's total to 4,502 since Aug. 7, including 29 employee cases. Of those, 283 are considered active.

Testing from Friday through Sunday yielded 52 student positives from 1,290 completed on-demand and random screening tests. Another 1,033 on-demand tests from that period are awaiting results. One employee tested positive out of 23 completed on-demand tests

An additional 93 student positives — 90 from on-demand tests and three from random screening — were reported from tests that were previously pending for the week of Nov. 6-12. For that week, there was a total of 264 student positives — 253 from 3,088 completed on-demand tests and 11 from 2,426 completed random screening tests.

A total of eight employees tested positive for the week of Nov. 6-12, including four new positives reported on Tuesday — three from on-demand tests and one from random screening.

Campus-based instruction for the fall semester ends on Friday, with the university completing the year remotely after next week's Thanksgiving break. Penn State began voluntary student departure testing on Nov. 12 and results through Sunday are reflected in Tuesday's updated on-demand results.

From Nov. 12-15, 2,986 student departure tests were performed, with 72 positive results received so far. An additional 8,000 University Park students signed up for departure testing from Monday through Thursday and those results will be reflected in future updates.

The university is urging students who test positive to isolate on campus or in a single-occupancy space off campus before leaving for Thanksgiving break, or if they do choose to return home to take appropriate precautions to self-isolate, Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said in a statement.

"We urge all students to take advantage of the departure testing being offered at no cost to them," Sims said. “For those students who have not already signed up for this testing, or have missed their previously scheduled test at University Park, there is still time. It is critical for students to be tested to reduce the risk of unwittingly infecting others when they return home to family and friends."

Students can schedule departure testing by using the Return Home Event on the Penn State Go App or by going to   virusinfo.psu.edu/departure-testing.

“With our on-demand testing numbers now including the results of our voluntary student departure testing, both our numbers of tests performed and our positive results are higher than we have seen in more recent updates to the dashboard. This is expected,” Kelly Wolgast, director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, said in a statement.


Weekly results of Penn State student COVID-19 testing as of Nov. 17, 2020.

As COVID-19 cases have soared across the commonwealth, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced several targeted mitigation measures on Tuesday.

Among them, masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors when away from home — outdoors when less than 6 feet from a non-household member and at all times indoors. Anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering Pennsylvania or must quarantine for 14 days. Pennsylvanians returning from another state — except for those commuting for work or medical care must do the same.

Levine also issued recommendations for colleges and universities, which include testing all students at the beginning of each semester, when returning to campus after a break and to have regular screening testing throughout the semester.

Penn State has not yet outlined plans for pre-arrival testing when students return for the spring semester in January. Prior to the start of the fall semester, the university did not require testing of all students, but instead performed targeted testing of about 23,000 students coming to campus from COVID-19 hotspots. Penn State has conducted random screening throughout the semester.

Levine said new modeling from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Pennsylvania will run out of intensive care unit beds in December if admissions continue at their current rate, though generally there should be a sufficient number of medical-surgical beds. She issued a memorandum to hospitals outlining expectations for care and preparedness.

"Hospitals are to work through the established health care coalitions and other partnerships to prepare for how they will support one another in the event that a hospital becomes overwhelmed during the pandemic," a Department of Health news release said. "Hospitals should also be working to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend them if our health care system becomes strained."

In Centre County, Mount Nittany Medical Center had 20 COVID-19 inpatients as of Tuesday morning.

Since Thursday, Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers has confirmed nine deaths attributed to the virus, ranging in age from 69 to 104. Six were residents of long-term care facilities.

Twenty of the 31 COVID-19 deaths confirmed by Sayers have occurred within the last month.

New cases among residents of Centre County long-term care facilities have increased sharply over that time as well, with 215 new positives in the past month. To date, 13 long-term care facilities in the county have had 268 cases among residents and 62 among employees, according to Department of Health data. 



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