CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A month from now, Penn State students return to campus and many are concerned they may bring COVID-19 risks with them to Centre County. But, recent data out of the university allows students to be part of the solution in their community.
Launched in the spring of 2020, the Data 4 Action research project analyzes the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact in Centre County versus student anti-body data, to guide decision making as the county moves forward.
About 2,000 community members took surveys to quantify the health, economic, educational, and social impact the pandemic has had on their lives. And about 1,500 Penn State students took part in a biological survey to determine if they had COVID-19 antibodies.
Comparing impact versus biological data is what Penn State seniors Gillian Sommerville and Laura Hurtado say can give the community a voice.
“They were scared because a lot of young people have been reckless and they’ve not being following guidelines, or not taking care of themselves because they think that if they get COVID, you know, whatever,” says Hurtado.
“I think sometimes we might forget that there’s a whole other community here that we’re a part of and to be able to recognize that and work together on such a big, eminent project I think is really cool for Centre County,” says Sommerville.
As data collection concluded, 64% of Centre residents say their life was moderately disrupted by the pandemic, with 32% citing significant disruption. Only 10% say they are currently not working, while 90% report their employment.
Sommerville says studying a historical year has been important for growth as a student and connecting with the community.
“I think it’s really important and timely, especially for students to be involved,” says Sommerville. “To recognize that we kind of come into these people’s community and our actions have consequences for them.”
The research leaders say the next step is to take this information and present it to Centre County government, so that they can work together to find a solution.