Penn State Reports 458 More COVID-19 Cases Among Students
September 25, 2020 2:02 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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Penn State on Friday reported 458 more COVID-19 cases among students attending University Park since its last update on Tuesday.

The additional cases bring the campus community's total to 2,124 since Aug. 7, including one employee case, according to Penn State's updated COVID-19 dashboard. However, 1,305 have completed isolation and are no longer considered active cases.

New cases reported on Friday were from tests completed between Sept. 18-24, as well as results that were previously pending for the week of Sept. 11-17

For Sept. 18-24, 368 cases were added since Tuesday's update, bringing the total for the week to 437 out of  4,616 completed tests. Another 774 are still awaiting results.

The week's total includes 418 positives from 1,910 completed on-demand tests, with 465 more awaiting results. For random testing, 19 positives resulted from 2,706 completed tests, with another 309 awaiting results.

Many of the new 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, so it's unclear when exactly cases have been added to the DOH totals.

For Sept. 11-17, an additional 90 cases — 85 on-demand and five random — were reported since the Tuesday's update, bringing that week's total to 634. The total included 597 positives from 3,019 completed on-demand tests and 37 positives from 3,222 completed random tests.

“It’s important for our students to know that we have the ability to test them for COVID-19 quickly and efficiently. Any student who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or believes they may have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual can be tested on any campus,” said Penn State President Eric Barron said in news release. “Additionally, we need students to understand that those who are selected to participate in the University’s random surveillance testing program are required to do so. It is a vital part of our multi-layered strategy to monitor the spread of the virus and it is not optional.”

According to the updated dashboard, 143 students are in on-campus isolation and 57 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.

No university faculty or staff tested positive for the week.

Penn State student cases continue to drive Centre County's position as Pennsylvania's biggest COVID-19 hotspot.

According the Department of Health's COVID-19 early warning monitoring dashboard, which was updated on Friday, Centre County once again had the highest incidence rate in the state for the past seven days at 350.1 per 100,000 people, up from 322.5 the prior week. The next closest county is Northumberland at 120.8. 

It's the third consecutive week Centre County has had the highest incidence rate in the state.

The county also once again had the highest positivity rate in Pennsylvania at 12%, down slightly from 12.1% the previous week.

State College Area School District administrators, however, said on Thursday that students would return to in-person K-12 classes next week because local data has shown low incidence rates in the community outside of the college-aged population.

In a message to families, Superintendent Bob O'Donnell wrote that data from the last month provided by community health providers showed low positivity rates and overall case numbers. Geisinger reported a 3.0 percent positivity rate from its 434 tests of people in the district zip codes since Sept. 1 — a total of 13 cases. Mount Nittany Health reported 1.1 percent positivity rate from its 2,598 tests of people in the district zip codes since Aug. 26 — a total of 29 cases.

Since Sept. 1, the Department of Health has reported 1,740 new cases in Centre County, three and a half times its total for the months of March through August combined.

As of Friday, five COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at Mount Nittany Medical Center, up from two on Thursday. 

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