Penn State: UPark, other campuses to require masks due to COVID-19

With COVID-19 community levels rising around Pennsylvania, Penn State will now require face masks indoors on 13 campuses by Tuesday – including University Park.

The university formally announced Wednesday that eight campuses required masks because they were located within counties that had high COVID-19 community levels, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Thursday, five more campuses saw their counties move to high levels, prompting new mask requirements at Penn State Beaver, Greater Allegheny, New Kensington, Schuylkill and University Park.

Those five campuses, including the main campus, will see the mask requirement go into effect Tuesday.

Other campuses already requiring face masks include Penn State Abington, Behrend, Brandywine, Great Valley, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The College of Medicine also continues to require masking because of requirements from Penn State Health.

“As this sixth wave of COVID-19 spreads across Pennsylvania, it is likely that we will see more campuses move to require masking as their home counties move from yellow (medium) or green (low) to orange (high),” Kelly Wolgast , director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, said Wednesday in a written statement. “We continue to encourage our community to stay up to date on their vaccinations as the best way to avoid a serious case of COVID-19 and to stay home and get tested if you are experiencing symptoms.”

The CDC recommends masking indoors publicly – regardless of vaccination status – for those in counties with high COVID-19 community levels, a measure designed by the CDC that takes into account both case counts and stress on the health care system. Based on the most recent levels, 15 Pennsylvania counties boast a low community level, 24 a medium level and 28 a high level.

Center County, home to Penn State’s flagship university, moved from a low community level to high on Thursday. It had been under a low level since mid-March.

A county cannot have a low community level if it has more than 200 weekly cases per 100,000 residents. If it crosses that threshold, it’s considered to have a high community level if it has more than 10 new weekly COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents or if more than 10% of its hospital beds are in use by COVID patients.

According to the latest CDC data, Center County has 248.79 weekly cases per 100,000 residents along with 13.7 weekly COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 residents. Some 5.7% of inpatient beds are also in use by confirmed COVID patients.

Classes for Penn State’s first six-week summer session continue through June 24, with classes for the second set to start June 29. The fall semester begins Aug. 22.

The CDC updates community levels once a week, at 8 pm every Thursday. For Penn State to rescind a campus ‘mask requirement, that campus’ home county must move away from a high COVID community level for at least two consecutive weeks.

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Josh Moyer earned his BA in journalism from Penn State and his MS from Columbia. He’s been involved in sports and news writing for nearly 20 years. He counts the best athlete he’s ever seen as Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson.

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