A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Penn State's University Park campus, according to a text alert sent by the university on Tuesday afternoon.
In a follow-up news release, the university did not identify whether the patient is a student, faculty member or staff member. It is up to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the release said, to decide what, if any, additional information about individual cases would be shared in accordance with privacy requirements and public health interests.
"University Health Services and Environmental Health and Safety have protocols in place for identifying, testing and isolating potential cases in accordance with established health and safety practices," the statement said. "The University has protocols in place [for] isolating anyone who is suspected of having COVID-19 as well as follow up with any individuals with any individuals who may have been exposed."
The alert was released just before the start of a virtual townhall for students and parents being hosted by Penn State administrators and faculty. Penn State President Eric Barron said the alert was sent as a federal government requirement to provide an alert for the first confirmed case on campus of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"I want you to know our buildings are largely deserted as most people are working from home and working remotely to make sure they can deliver an education and kept the university functioning," Barron said. "In that sense the risk of comm. transmission is limited. Still, our Office of the Physical Plant will step in and follow all Department of Health guidelines to make sure our buildings are safe."
Barron said the news had "emerged in the last few minutes."
Last week Penn State reported two students who were studying abroad for the semester had tested positive for COVID-19. Neither had been on a Penn State campus this semester.
The health department reported earlier on Tuesday four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Centre County, bringing the county's total to seven. It was not clear if the University Park case was included in that count.
Throughout Pennsylvania, there have been 851 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths related to the virus as of Tuesday morning.
At a townhall for faculty and staff earlier in the day, Barron said the university is committed to paying all of its employees through at least the end of April, noting that auxiliary and other self-supporting units like housing and food services, the university's hotels and University Park Airport are facing millions of dollars in losses.
“The university will use this time to better understand the likely duration of this event and develop a strategy to minimize the impact on employees and the communities we serve to the best extent possible,” Barron said.