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As COVID Numbers Rise, County Workers Remain Remote

Citing the rising number of cases of COVID-19 and increased hospitalizations due to the virus in the county, Centre County government workers will remain in full-remote work status for at least another two weeks. If numbers don’t stabilize, it could be even longer.

The county had hoped to move workers to a full-rotational model beginning the first week in April. During Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, County Administer Margaret Gray said she learned that day that COVID-19 hospitalizations had risen again at Mount Nittany Medical Center. She said the number of county workers who have needed to quarantine has also climbed.

“It appears that the numbers haven’t gone down, but are in fact trending up in the month of March,” said Gray.

The commissioners agreed to extend the full remote status until at least April 18, at which point the commissioners will review the numbers again.

“The next two weeks ought to tell us which way we are going to go, if this is just a blip or if this is something that is a trend upwards,” said Gray.

Over the past two weeks, Centre County has reported about 900 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Though new positives dipped to 24 on Thursday, daily increases since mid-March have routinely been at their highest levels since early February. The 116 new cases reported on March 27 total was the county’s highest single day total since Jan. 31.

On Wednesday, Mount Nittany Medical Center was treating 28 COVID-19 inpatients between the ages of 44 and 90. For the month there were 118 COVID positive inpatients this month, with an average daily census of 18. In February there were 96 COVID admissions, which had been a steep drop after January when there were 211 COVID admissions.

The commissioners agreed that waiting two weeks was the correct move despite the desire to get back to a more traditional work environment.

“I think we are all anxious to get back to some semblance of full functionality, as we continue to see almost, wave after wave of incident of coronavirus,” commissioner Steven Dershem said. “Unfortunately, when one person gets it, it impacts the entire office.”

Some county workers, such as corrections officers at the jail, do not have the option to work from home.

As number rise, county officials are asking that people continue to remain vigilant about mitigation efforts.

“We have to be prudent. We have to be responsible, and I also want to emphasize… those measure that we have already employed, the masking and social distancing, not only within our organization, but throughout the community,” Dershem said. “It is important that we remain vigilant right now. And if you do choose to get vaccinated, please do so at the earliest convenience that you can find. Because I think that as we reach some level of herd immunity, we are a lot safer. Before this virus mutates anymore and creates more devastation to the health care system, I think we need to create as good as environment as we can moving forward.”

Vincent Corso is the senior staff writer for The Centre County Gazette. The original version of this story appears in the April 1-7 edition of The Gazette.’s Geoff Rushton contributed to this report.