On-campus students return to Penn State: is State College ready?

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — It’s been nearly three months since Penn State students were allowed to live on-campus and attend hybrid learning. Now, they’re making their return.

State College says they’re welcoming students back, and stress it’s up to everyone to continue staying safe, no matter how many residents are in the borough.

“We’re still seeing in the numbers here, even before students come back, substantial transmission still in Centre County,” said Douglas Shontz, assistant to the manger of the State College Borough. “We need to help our public health institutions out, and our businesses out too, by being responsible.”

Some off-campus students made an early return to Happy Valley for the spring semester, but Shontz says the majority have been following the borough’s COVID-19 ordinance.

“They’ve been wearing masks downtown,” said Shontz. “We’re not getting a lot of calls in terms of social gatherings.”

Shontz says the return of students can only help the local economy, which has had to continuously adapt over the past year.

On-campus housing has the potential to hold 14,500 residents, and they all need to be tested for COVID-19 before returning.

“So what’s going to happen is, we’re going to see, in Centre County, the numbers go up and people are going to be worried about that… but that’s something to anticipate,” said Shontz. “That makes sure that those that do test positive, Penn State has the capacity to support and quarantine, follow up, make sure that they’re not spreading it.” 

Sofia Szikman, a first-year at Penn State, received her negative COVID-19 rapid test result this afternoon and eagerly moved back in to her home-away-from-home.

“I feel like people are pretty good about wearing their masks around here,” said Szikman. “Nothing’s ever too crowded and stuff.”

She says she feels safe with all of the protocols in place, and is grateful for the opportunity to reunite with her college friends.

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