9/4: Penn State updates COVID-19 dashboard with week's test results

September 04, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State released its coronavirus testing results for the week of Aug. 28 to Sept. 3 on its COVID-19 dashboard today (Sept. 4). Among students tested at the University Park campus, Penn State received 115 positive results from its on-demand screening and 59 positive results in its random screening.

The University has initiated its contact tracing process for all cases and the impacted individuals – all students – are in isolation either on-campus in Eastview Terrace, at home or in a suitable single-occupancy residence off campus. There is currently ample space remaining in the areas designated for isolation and quarantine. Nevertheless, University leadership is concerned with the increasing numbers, particularly ahead of Labor Day weekend, and the implications for continued on-campus learning should the trend continue.

“We know the virus is here, and I am of course concerned by the numbers and trends we are seeing,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “Our ability to manage transmission and rate of growth of positive cases is critically important. Next week, we will assess data following the holiday weekend, and determine whether we need to take mitigation steps at University Park including temporary or sustained remote learning.”

Barron reinforced his previous call for students and employees to stay in their communities: “The time is now to step up our efforts in masking and social distancing. We should not leave town for Labor Day weekend or have out-of-town guests visit us. We cannot be attending social gatherings, parties or barbecues.”

“This is a very critical moment,” said epidemiologist Matt Ferrari, associate professor of biology. “It’s vital that students, especially, socialize closely only with roommates, if possible. This is not the time to have friends over, or visit other apartments. Don’t attend gatherings with folks outside your immediate household; wear a mask and maintain distance when you go out. Fortunately, it appears we can look forward to good weather and the prospect of outdoor activity. Go hiking, ride a bike – but keep your distance from others and wear masks. I know this is difficult. However, these steps can slow the spread and make a real difference.”

The University has altered the nomenclature of its two testing programs to more clearly reflect the populations bring tested. What was previously called “symptomatic testing” is now referred to as “on-demand testing.”

“The on-demand group includes test results from students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms as well as asymptomatic individuals who are concerned about a possible exposure,” said Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services (UHS). “For those experiencing symptoms, we are seeing them mostly limited to mild to moderate symptoms such as a low-grade fever, cough, and muscle aches.”

Results from on-demand testing are sent directly to the Department of Health from UHS. Results are reported in the ZIP code where the individual currently resides.

“Asymptomatic testing” is now labeled “random screening,” and includes test results from the University’s randomized COVID-19 surveillance testing program as well as results from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ testing on student-athletes and targeted testing through “pop-up facilities.” Employee random screening will begin Tuesday, Sept. 8, though there has been some volunteer employee testing previously. For the random screening, students are randomly selected for the surveillance testing program using data from LionPATH and the University’s Central Person Registry. No demographic data -- which includes race, ethnicity, place of origin and gender – are used in the selection process.

Results from random screening tests are sent from the vendor to the Department of Health by the vendor with which the University is partnering to conduct the testing. Commonwealth Campus data will be added to the dashboard when validated.

University officials are continuing to track current trends and continuously monitoring local, state and national disease data and following guidance from state and local health officials. Based on that guidance, and in consultation with faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health, the University is prepared to adjust its approach as necessary.

To continue on-campus learning, work and other activities through the fall semester, it’s imperative that students, faculty and staff at all campuses and in adjacent communities do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 — and support the effort to “Mask Up or Pack Up.” The University urges everyone to wear face masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings entirely.

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including frequently asked questions and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit virusinfo.psu.edu.

Last Updated September 04, 2020