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[Live Blog] Penn State’s October 4 Student & Family Coronavirus Town Hall

Penn State administrators will host yet another virtual town hall this afternoon to discuss the fall semester and provide updates on the university’s coronavirus mitigation efforts.

Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims will host the event. They’ll be joined by Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine, and Kelly Wolgast, director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC).

The event will be livestreamed starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 4. It’ll later be archived for repeat viewings if you’d like to watch again.

So far this semester, nearly 2,700 University Park students and three employees have tested positive for the virus. Additionally, Penn State has issued nearly 1,300 sanctions for violations of its coronavirus mitigation policies, including 10 suspensions and 17 on-campus housing revocations.

3:02 p.m. — Thanks for tuning in today and following along with us, folks. There’s a lot of information here to process, and much more to come, but this should help to give you a better idea of what campus will look like for the rest of the fall semester.

Stay safe, smart, and healthy!

3 p.m. — In closing remarks, Jones thanks students for their “amazing resiliency” and doing everything they can to make sure the fall semester runs as smoothly as possible. He says he’s proud so many are rising to the occasion in “true Penn State fashion.”

2:58 p.m. — Jones says Penn State will make an announcement about the spring semester on Monday, saying “some of it [we] know already. The university already said it would provide both in-person and remote instruction next semester.

2:55 p.m. — Jones reminds viewers Penn State will celebrate its fall semester graduates virtually on December 19. Although the university hoped it’d be able to recognize them in person, Jones said the virus “has other ideas.”

Jones says Penn State “has its fingers crossed” for a spring graduation, but it’s too early to tell at this point in time.

2:52 p.m. — Sims says students should participate in the upcoming general election and get registered to vote. He adds Penn State moved its polling sites to the Bryce Jordan Center to provide room for voters to space out as much as possible. White Course residents will still vote in the HUB, according to Sims.

2:49 p.m. — Black shoots down theories that getting the virus so it will be “out of their system” and says that is dangerous, reckless, and unnecessary. He notes potential long-term effects, which haven’t been fully studied yet, could threaten students.

2:47 p.m. — Jones says Penn State will implement “comprehensive strategies” leading up to November 20, encouraging them to self-quarantine and get tested before heading home.

He says Penn State will continue providing quarantine and isolation spaces for students who test positive before heading home. Those services will remain in place past November 20.

2:45 p.m. — Jones says Penn State still plans on sending students home for the rest of the semester on November 20, continuing the semester online. He adds eliminating post-Thanksgiving travel should help limit further spread of the coronavirus.

2:43 p.m. — Black encourages students to get their flu shots this fall, adding it’s more critical than ever thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Students can sign up for appointments through myUHS throughout the fall semester.

2:41 p.m. — Sims says Penn State has been discussing organizing small, controlled outdoor watch parties for games this fall, particularly Penn State’s Halloween matchup against Ohio State. However, no plans are currently set in stone.

He mentioned baseball or softball stadiums as potential venues for such an event.

2:39 p.m. — Jones says health and well-being were paramount when deciding to bring football back this fall.

He encourages students to be mindful of how they watch games this fall without being in Beaver Stadium and discourages them from gathering in large groups. The Big Ten collectively decided not to bring spectators to games this fall.

2:35 p.m. — Sims touts Penn State’s creative outdoor activities for students, including sunset yoga, leadership retreats, and intramural sports.

2:32 p.m. — Sims says Penn State has been “extremely pleased” by students’ compliance with mitigation efforts and guidelines. However, he acknowledges the university has issued nearly 1,300 sanctions for violations of these policies, including suspensions or housing revocations.

2:30 p.m. — Black clarifies students who test negative should still quarantine for 14 days because symptoms could still develop later on despite a negative test.

2:28 p.m. — Wolgast says could utilize vehicles to help quarantined or isolated students bring their belongings to Eastview Terrace later this semester as winter weather sets in. However, she advises against students “bringing their entire dorm room.”

2:25 p.m. — Sims says one major problem has been students’ “boredom” without many on-campus events this semester. He says Penn State is consistently working to provide activities for students to get to know each other and interact safely.

2:22 p.m. — Jones thanks Housing and Food Services employees and volunteers for their efforts so far this semester. He says their efforts have been “heartwarming.”

2:20 p.m. — Sims acknowledges students’ unsatisfactory quarantine or isolation experiences and jokingly says “no one” would have a good time there. He defends Penn State’s policies by saying the university has never been in this position before but “is getting better as we go.”

2:18 p.m. — Wolgast notes the differences between isolation (a process for known positives) and quarantine (a process for those who’ve been in contact with positives or haven’t received results yet).

She adds Penn State’s on-campus quarantine and isolation spaces remain at “about 50%” but are able to expand if necessary. On-campus spaces are available for both on-campus and off-campus students.

2:15 p.m. — Black jumps in and reminds students they can request on-demand testing whenever they feel ill or believe they’ve been in contact with a positive individual. They can make appointments through myUHS to make appointments, while Commonwealth Campus students should call university nurses.

2:13 p.m. — Wolgast implores students to pay attention to surveillance testing and not ignore notifications. She says participation is important and critical to stopping the spread of the virus on campus.

2:11 p.m. — Jones reiterates the importance of Penn State’s contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation policies, adding they’re “going pretty well.” He says they work only if students help make them successful and cooperate as much as they can.

2:10 p.m. — Wolgast says Penn State is following others’ advice in not sending students home due to high case numbers on campus. She adds sending away students could put smaller communities at risk.

2:08 p.m. — Jones says reopening the IM Building was an “on-ramp” resulting from mitigation efforts going well. However, he warns privileges such as reopened facilities could be taken away if things get worse.

2:06 p.m. — Despite rising case numbers, Jones says the health and wellness of Penn State’s community, as well as State College’s community, remains paramount. He touts Penn State’s walk-up testing and “pop-up” testing as particularly effective methods in finding and verifying virus cases on campus.

2:04 p.m. — Jones reiterates Penn State students are “expected and required” to comply with coronavirus surveillance testing and fulfill their testing responsibilities. He says it puts others at risk and hampers the university’s mitigation efforts.

2 p.m. — Provost Jones takes the virtual stage to introduce Sunday’s town hall. He says he’s proud of Penn State’s students for their adversity this semester in facing the coronavirus pandemic head-on. He implores them to continue wearing masks and “staying smart” on and off campus.

1:50 p.m. — Welcome to Onward State’s live blog of today’s virtual town hall, where university leaders will provide updates on the fall semester. This will be your one-stop-shop for everything addressed by Penn State’s administrators this afternoon.

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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 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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