UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ)– Wednesday, the White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, a Penn State Alum, visited PSU to meet with university and community leaders.
During the meeting, Dr. Birx discussed the university’s approach to COVID-19 and key issues surrounding the virus in college towns. Following her private meetings with local officials, Dr. Birx addressed the media.
Her main message: More testing of students is more effective at curbing the virus.
Dr. Birx acknowledged that Penn State is able to test 700 randomly selected students each day, she says the goal should be to test each student every week… a goal she says is attainable at Penn State.
“I am very proactive about the importance of testing because of the level of silent spread among college students. The only way you’re going to find the majority of cases is through testing” Dr. Birx said.
She continued: “I would always be happy if we had 100% of students tested weekly because I think testing changes behavior.”
Dr. Birx believes that if students know they’ll be tested every week, they’ll be less likely to take part in risky behavior.
“What they’re doing is working, I would always like to see more,” she said.
Dr. Birx drove around the State College community and Penn State’s campus Wednesday morning. She said she was pleased with what she saw.
“Not a lot of students were up when we came on campus, but every student that we saw was masked. We saw that also in the community,” she said.
Dr. Birx stated that she supports both state-wide and local mandates to wear masks, believing they make expectations clear.
“I think there have to be two messages: consequences and accountability for those who are not going to follow the rules, and then positive reinforcement for the students who are following the rules. I know some universities hand out gift cards to students who they see following the rules on and off campus,” she said noting that more positive reinforcement could make a similar impact as deterrents (suspensions and fines) on campus.
Penn State’s coronavirus dashboard shows that over the past couple weeks, student cases are on a downward trend at Main Campus.
But, on Friday, October, 9 Mount Nittany Health reported housing 13 Covid-19 patients. The hospital’s average Covid patient count is between six and eight.
Currently, the hospital has space for 21 Covid patients in their Covid wing.
More details on Dr. Birx comments on COVID-19: