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President Barron: Penn State Has ‘No Need’ To Change Semester Plans Yet

Despite rising coronavirus case numbers on campus, Penn State President Eric Barron said the university doesn’t need to change its fall semester approach yet.

In a statement published Friday, Barron acknowledged the 708 coronavirus cases reported across Penn State’s campuses so far and said the university is monitoring them closely.

“At this time, we do not need to change our current modality and hybrid on-campus approach,” Barron said. “The University is monitoring the number of positive and negative cases — and other variables critical to our decision making — including isolation and quarantine capacity, hospitalizations, locational data, transmission from student cases to employees and community prevalence, to name a few.”

Barron added Penn State could change its semester plans in the future, though. He said possible changes include pausing in-person instruction or quarantining specific groups of students or cohorts.

“Students continue to be cooperative and understand the necessary testing and contact tracing procedures. Further, there have been zero reports of classroom violations from students,” Barron said. “We remain concerned about spread, but at this time can continue on-campus activities as long as everyone takes this virus seriously and wears masks, socially distances and avoids gatherings. We are looking at the data, by location, and trend lines daily, and we remain ready to initiate additional mitigation measures if needed and will hold individuals accountable for violating the University’s safety requirements.”

Previously, Penn State communicated students could be suspended or expelled for violating testing procedures or coronavirus mitigation guidelines, such as wearing face masks and social distancing.

Last week, the university quarantined all 144 Penn State Hershey nursing students out of precaution after a handful of cases were found within the college. Their quarantine should last until at least September 14.

Dr. Kevin Black, the interim dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine, said Penn State is working with local networks to monitor the coronavirus’ spread. He added Penn State has implemented contact tracing efforts to further mitigate the virus effects on the community.

“The University is in close communication with local and regional public health authorities, officials at Mount Nittany Health System, Penn State Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” Black said. “Our contact tracing process is another source of data being used to take preventive action and halt the spread of what otherwise could go undetected in our community. Mitigating viral spread even before individuals may know they have been infected is exactly why we put asymptomatic, symptomatic and on-demand testing processes into place.” 

Penn State reported 272 more University Park coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the campus’ total to 477 on the week. The university has reported 708 positive cases across its campuses since testing began on August 7.

According to Penn State’s COVID-19 Dashboard, 132 University Park students are currently in on-campus isolation, while 77 students are in on-campus quarantine. Some students are also isolating themselves in their off-campus residences.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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