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Penn State Reports More Than 100 New COVID-19 Cases at University Park Since Last Update

by on October 23, 2020 4:44 PM

Penn State reported 108 new COVID-19 positives among students and one among employees at University Park in Friday's semi-weekly update.

It marks an uptick in new cases at the campus after reporting fewer than 100 in each of the last two updates.

The new positives reported in the university's updated COVID-19 dashboard bring the the campus community's total to 3,657 since Aug. 7, including 11 employee casesHowever, only 238 of those are still considered active, with 3,419 having completed isolation and no longer considered active cases.

“After a steady decrease, the slight uptick in the number of active cases serves as a reminder that the virus is still with us,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement. “With our first football game taking place on Saturday, and with flu season upon us, it is especially critical that we remain diligent in our prevention behaviors so that we do not undo the progress we’ve made in recent weeks.

"For the sake of the overall health of our community, I urge our students, employees and all Penn State fans to not congregate this weekend and to continue practicing masking-wearing, social distancing and proper hygiene. This is not the time to let down our guard.”

The campus added 107 new student positives for the week of Oct. 16-22 since the university's last update on Tuesday, bringing the total for the week to 140.

The total includes 127 positives from 972 completed on-demand tests with another 94 still awaiting results. Random screening yielded 13 positives from 2,622 completed tests, with 360 more still pending.

One employee also tested positive out of 84 on-demand tests during the week.

One additional student positive was reported on Friday from tests that were previously pending from the week of Oct. 9-15. For that week there were a total of 194 student positives — 184 from 2,060 on demand tests and 10 from 3,047 completed random screening tests. Two employees also tested positive out of 437 random screening tests that week.

Weekly results of Penn State student COVID-19 testing as of Oct. 23, 2020.

According to the updated dashboard, 57 students are currently in on-campus isolation and 47 are in on-campus quarantine. University Park has 250 rooms available for isolation, 150 for quarantine and another 140 available if needed. Students may also isolate and quarantine at home or if they have suitable space off-campus residence, according to the university.

Many of the newly reported university cases have likely already appeared in the Pennsylvania Department of Health's daily COVID-19 reporting for Centre County. Penn State updates its dashboard only twice a week, and the health department does not distinguish student testing results in publicly available data, so it's unclear when exactly cases have been added to the DOH totals.

While Centre County has seen a decline in new cases corresponding with Penn State's general downward trend, COVID-19 hospitalizations at Mount Nittany Medical Center reached a record number on Friday.

The hospital reported that it currently has 15 COVID inpatients, ranging in age from 23 to 95. The majority are elderly and several are from local long-term care facilities.

Since Oct. 1, Mount Nittany has admitted 34 COVID positive patients, with an average of nine COVID positive inpatients per day. In September it had a total of 16 COVID positive patients admitted in September, with an average of two COVID positive inpatients per day.

Mount Nittany Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nirmal Joshi called the rise in COVID-19 admissions "concerning" and said that over the last two weeks COVID-19 inpatient cases have consistently been in the double digits.

On Oct. 9, the hospital activated its surge capacity plan, rescheduling elective and non-essential surgeries and procedures that require overnight admission. 

Over that same two-week period the overall number of new cases in the county dropped significantly. Between Oct. 9 and Friday, the county had 586 new cases. For the two weeks prior to that there were 1,091 new cases.

After more than a month of having the highest of any county in Pennsylvania, Centre County's incidence rate also has continued to drop. For the last week, the county had an incidence rate of 125.3 cases per 100,000 people, ninth highest in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's early warning monitoring dashboard. The county's positivity rate also dropped to 4.9%, just below the statewide average of 5%.

But cases among nursing and personal care homes have seen a steady uptick, with 47 new positives among residents and seven among employees over the past two weeks. Twelve long-term care facilities have now had a combined 100 resident cases and 39 employee cases, as well as at least 11 of the county's 16 COVID-19 deaths, according to the health department.

Two of Centre County's 59 new cases reported on Friday were among nursing and personal care home residents.

"Although recently reported trends reflecting a decline in overall community cases is encouraging, increased cases and hospitalizations among vulnerable elderly populations is cause for concern," Joshi said. "It is also a reminder to be even more vigilant and thoughtful in consistently practicing preventive measures, including masking, social distancing and frequent hand washing.”

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