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Penn State, Community Leaders Team Up To Prepare For Students’ Return

Penn State is joining forces with community leaders to collectively plan for the fall semester, the university announced Monday.

The 11-person committee is working to create plans for coronavirus testing, implementing contact-tracing, effectively isolating and quarantining affected individuals, and enforcing public health guideline compliance, according to a release.

The group features representatives from a number of local groups, including Penn State, State College’s local government, Centre County Officials, Mount Nittany Health, and Centre County’s Chamber of Business and Industry.

“It is crucial that our community has these open lines of communication and that we collaborate to ensure our collective health and safety through this ongoing pandemic,” Mount Nittany Health Vice President Tom Charles said. “Everyone must work together to reinforce and engage in practices to prevent and contain the spread of the virus in order to keep our community strong. We are in this together.”

The committee is particularly focused on developing cohesive plans to rapidly and effectively test individuals this fall. It feels working together gives the community the best shot to be successful in that effort.

“Working together is more important than ever as our community at large faces the challenges ahead,” Centre County official Margaret Gray said. “Efforts to secure essential resources and services such as contact tracing are certainly enhanced by a strong partnership that focuses on coordination across all aspects of this public health crisis.”

Penn State noted the health of its community, which makes up a significant portion of Centre County’s economy, is “paramount.” The committee feels local residents will benefit from the collaborative approach it’s taking while planning for the fall.

“The efforts of this committee are crucial for the long-term vitality of our economic rejuvenation,” Vern Squier, president and CEO of Centre County’s Chamber of Business and Industry, said. “Just as local businesses reopened in a phased and strategic manner, we want to engage the coming increase of people into an environment that is as safe and prepared as possible.” 

Tom King, State College’s assistant borough manager of public safety, noted the Borough Council is currently considering implementing an ordinance that would give it more power to enforce mask-wearing and other public health guidelines in town. If passed, he said there “will be penalties” for those who fail to comply.

The committee plans to continue collaborating long after students return to campus in August. Charima Young, a Penn State official, said the group’s goal is to implement “integrated workstreams” between campus and the community throughout the semester.

Although Penn State has yet to release any concrete plans surrounding its coronavirus testing plans, university leaders will provide updates during a virtual town hall on Thursday, July 30.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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