Penn State Reports 294 More Student COVID-19 Cases
September 22, 2020 3:12 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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Penn State on Tuesday reported 294 additional COVID-19 cases among University Park students from weekend testing and additional results from the previous seven days that had been pending.

The new positives bring the campus community's total to 1,666 since Aug. 7, including one employee case, according to Penn State's updated COVID-19 dashboard. However, 1,053 have completed their isolation period and are no longer considered active.

Currently, 111 students are in on-campus isolation and 58 are in on-campus quarantine. Students may also isolate and quarantine at home or if they have suitable space off-campus residence, according to the university.

Provost Nick Jones told State College Borough Council in an update on Monday night that University Park has 250 rooms available for isolation, 150 for quarantine and another 140 available if needed.

"So far we are managing well within our operating parameters,' he said.

From tests performed Friday through Sunday, there were 69 positives. On-demand testing yielded 68 positives from 231 completed tests. Another 276 were still awaiting results.

Random testing resulted in one positive from 592 completed tests, with another 235 still pending.

For the week of Sept. 11-17, an additional 224 positive results were reported from tests that had still been awaiting results at the time of Penn State's last update on Friday. Those included 206 from on-demand tests and 18 from random screening.

The new cases brought that week's total to 544, down from 653 the previous week. Positives for Sept. 11-17 included 512 from on-demand testing and 32 from random screening.

There were no new employee positives reported from weekend testing or last week's results.

“We’re seeing a slight decline in our random testing data and in the number of students in our quarantine and isolation space, however we remain cautious and are continuing to monitor multiple data points,” Kelly Wolgast, director of the Penn State's COVID-19 Operations Control Center, said in a news release. “We will be conferring with the Department of Health as they begin community testing later this week and we will continue to share data as we move forward."

The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced a pop-up clinic for free COVID-19 testing will open on Friday at the Nittany Mall. Up to 500 registered individuals per day will be tested at no charge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 25-26 and Sept. 29-Oct. 3. 

DOH staff also are working with representatives from the county, municipalities and other entities to develop recommendations for localized mitigation measures as Centre County continues to be the biggest COVID-19 hotspot in the state.

For the second consecutive week, Centre County had, by far, the highest COVID-19 incidence rate in the state at 322.5 cases per 100,000 people for the week of Sept. 11-17, according to the Department of Health's early warning monitoring dashboard. The county also has the highest positivity rate for the past week at 12.1%.

The county also is now in what DOH and the Department of Education term the "substantial," or highest level of community transmission. The extreme spike in cases caused State College Area School District to move to remote learning for three consecutive weeks so far.

On Tuesday, DOH reported 195 new cases in Centre County, its second highest single-day total to date.

In the past two weeks, the county has added 1,345 new cases, the vast majority in the State College and University Park zip code and most tied to Penn State student testing. According to the New York Times, Centre County is No. 6 in the country for "Where the Outbreak Is Worst," metro areas with the greatest number of new cases relative to population.

Since Sept. 1, DOH has reported 1,540 new cases in Centre County, more than three times as many as the county had in the months of March through August combined.

Hospitalizations have remained low, however, with just one COVID-19 patient in Mount Nittany Medical Center as of Tuesday, according to DOH data.

Wolgast, meanwhile, urged students to get tested if they experience symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

“It’s important for Penn State students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or believe that they may have been a close contact of an infected individual to use the University’s health care and testing resources,” Wolgast said. “This will help facilitate contact tracing on campus and allow us and the Department of Health to more accurately assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in the local community surrounding University Park.”

At University Park, students with health concerns should call the 24/7 advice nurse at 814-863-4463 or the appointment line at 814-863-0774 to schedule an appointment. 

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