As we’ve traveled along the winding, pothole-laden road to the fall of 2020, much of the focus locally – including in this space – has been on Penn State.
As Karen Walker reported last month, many in downtown State College greeted the students’ return in late-August with a mix of optimism and concern. Optimism for the much-needed economic boost, and concern that there would be a rise in coronavirus cases.
The streets and sidewalks are again busy – not as bustling as in a normal fall, but a welcome sight for businesses just the same.
Cases of the virus have been on the rise in State College, with Penn State students accounting for the great majority of them. As of September 17, the university reported 1,145 positive cases among students at University Park. The university had performed 11,940 random tests and 5,863 on-demand tests. Among staff, one positive case had been reported among 369 random tests.
But the rise in cases hadn’t led to a surge in hospitalizations. As of September 15, Mount Nittany Medical Center was treating two patients for COVID-19, according to the Centre Daily Times.
Also last month, I noted that for the first time since 1886, Penn State would not play football this fall. Well, as ESPN College GameDay’s Lee Corso famously says: Not so fast, my friend!
The Big Ten Conference reversed course on September 16, citing testing advances in announcing that football will return the weekend of October 24.
While the move will bring a bit more business downtown for a few weekends – with visiting teams, support staff, TV crews, etc. – it’s not likely to have a major economic impact locally because no tickets will be sold for Beaver Stadium, nor will fans be allowed in the tailgate lots around it.
Still, it’s welcome news for Penn State’s football program, as Frank Bodani writes inside this issue. The program will look to regain the considerable momentum it lost with the pandemic shutdown. It’s also a morale boost for fans, who will at least get to cheer for the Nittany Lions from afar. And no doubt we’ll see our fair share of tailgates in driveways throughout Happy Valley.
It gets far less attention, but a similar scene is already playing out at the high school level. While the “Friday Night Lights” are still shining on Centre County football fields, the rich traditions that accompany them have been altered this year. Inside, Vincent Corso writes about how local school communities are doing their best to carry those traditions on in some way. As one parent says, “If weird is the new normal, I’ll take it.”
Speaking of our staff writer Vince, he recently earned first-place honors in The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania's Golden Quill Awards, in the magazine news feature category. Vince was honored for his January 2019 piece titled "Heartache & Hope," on the opioids crisis in Centre County. That remains an important issue facing our community. If you missed the story, you can find it here.