DOH To Offer Free COVID-19 Tests In State College, Penn State Adds 320 Positives For The Week

Written by on September 21, 2020

DOH To Offer Free COVID-19 Tests In State College, Penn State Adds 320 Positives For The Week

By Min Xian, WPSU

September 21, 2020

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will offer free COVID-19 tests in State College starting next week, as cases in Centre County and at Penn State continue to grow. MIN XIAN / WPSU

Penn State added 320 new cases of the coronavirus for the week of Sept. 11 to 17, as the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard Friday.

The total number of COVID-19 positives among University Park campus students has now reached 1,371 since Aug. 7. The university said in a release that 656 University Park students have completed their isolation period and are no longer COVID-19 positive.

Among commonwealth campuses, Abington, Behrend, Hazleton and Shenango each added one new positive case among students. The Altoona campus added three cases for Friday’s update.

There are no new employee positives on any Penn State campus in the past week.

With the continuing growth in cases at Penn State, Centre County now has a total of 1,630 cases of COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Recently, Centre County has been reporting the highest incidence rate per 100,000 residents over the most recent 7 days in Pennsylvania, according to the department.

To contain the “rapid rise in COVID-19 cases” in Centre County, the state Department of Health announced Friday that a pop-up coronavirus testing site will open next week at the Nittany Mall in State College. 

“Since the beginning of September, we have seen an increase of 1,109 cases in Centre County and 173 cases in Columbia County, which gives us significant cause for concern,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “These testing sites will be open to anyone who feels they need a test. It is important that even people with no symptoms who test positive isolate and quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The testing site will be open on Sept. 25, 26, 29, 30, Oct. 1, 2 and 3 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. The department says each day up to 500 individuals, whether displaying symptoms or not, can take a free test on a first come, first served basis. 

There are nearly 900 tests pending results among University Park students. Penn State shifted its surveillance testing program starting Sept. 8 to pooled testing of nasal swabs, creating a “two-step process” before students receive positive results, the university says.

“After a student is tested, the samples are pooled and tested by the Testing and Surveillance Center (TASC),” the release said. “If a pool results in an indeterminate result, all persons in the pool are referred to University Health Services (UHS) for further testing. The individuals with indeterminate results go to UHS for a second test, and results may take 24-48 hours to return. This process may take several days, in total.”

This week’s random testing yielded 14 positive results among UP students, much fewer than previous weeks. “The decreasing rate of positivity among random testing results at this time is a reflection of pending results and should not be interpreted as more meaningful than that,” Penn State’s release on Friday said.

Positive results are reported based on the day the initial surveillance test was conducted. 

There are 41 individuals in quarantine and 144 in isolation, according to the dashboard. The university said all cases have triggered a contact tracing process and that additional space for isolation and quarantine remains available. 

In addition, Mount Nittany Medical Center said they currently have one COVID-19 patient hospitalized. 

Penn State President Eric Barron said Tuesday that the school is “doing reasonably well,” pointing to both the local hospital’s capacity and the availability of isolation and quarantine space.

The Big Ten, which includes Penn State, announced on Wednesday that it will have a football season starting in October after all.


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