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Penn State's Nittany Lion Inn to Be Used as Isolation Space for COVID-19 Cases on Campus

by on June 22, 2020 2:23 PM

Penn State's Nittany Lion Inn will remain closed through at least the fall and its 223 guest rooms will be used as isolation spaces as needed for COVID-19 cases on campus as the university returns to in-person instruction, university President Eric Barron said on Monday.

The closure will result in layoffs of 79 staff members, Barron said during a virtual town hall on the return to campus for faculty and staff. He added that the university is looking for alternative work for affected employees.

Rooms would be used for isolating students who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

"Financial and other impacts of this pandemic are forcing us to make many hard decisions and this is one of the most difficult because of how it affects our dedicated employees," Barron said. "Extremely challenging financial conditions and the need for isolation space ultimately compelled us to make this difficult decision."

Nittany Lion Inn employees have been notified, Barron said. The university is in discussions with the Teamsters about how the decision will affect employees covered under a labor agreement.

Housing and Food Services employees and some existing Nittany Lion Inn staff will provide services as needed to students isolating in guest rooms, according to a university news release.

Both the Nittany Lion Inn and the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center have been closed since mid-March because of the pandemic. The Penn Stater is expected to reopen in July, according to the university.

Hotel employees were among about 2,000 Penn State staff members who could not perform work during campus closures and were furloughed at 50 percent pay beginning in May.

Barron said on Monday that "most" of the furloughed employees will be brought back to work in August.

Furloughed employees, including Inn employees, will continue to receive 50 percent of their pay through the end of July. 

Penn State expects the pandemic to have a financial impact of more than $260 million over the next year as a result of losses and additional costs. The university hotels are self-sustaining operations that use their own revenue for expenses and tuition and other funds cannot be used to keep them open.

While Penn State is using about half of the $55 million it received from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for employee assistance, the guidelines indicate that money cannot be used to pay hospitality workers, according to the university. 

The other half of the emergency funding, which was authorized through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is being used for emergency grants to students impacted by the pandemic.

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