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Education

Penn State students to begin spring semester in person

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Matt Rourke
/
AP
Penn State University officials suggest that students take a COVID test, which the school will provide, before returning to campus on Jan. 10 for the spring semester.

Students at Penn State University’s University Park and other campuses across the commonwealth will start the spring semester in person, the university announced Thursday night.

“Based on advice from Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Penn State leadership has determined that, at this time, conditions do not warrant a move to remote learning and other activities to start the semester,” university officials said in a statement.

Classes resume on Jan. 10.

Penn State implemented a vaccine mandate for employees and students earlier this year. Unvaccinated individuals must take weekly COVID tests, and everyone must wear masks indoors.

“With these measures in place, together with hospitalization data and what we are learning about omicron, we believe we can safely but carefully return to on-campus classes and activities as planned,” said Penn State President Eric Barron.

Officials suggested that students take a COVID test, which the school will provide, before returning to campus. Students who do not take a test beforehand will be “strongly encouraged” to take a rapid test when they arrive on campus.

“The university will continue to closely monitor the conditions around University Park and its commonwealth campuses and will alter its plans if necessary,” the statement said. “Additional and/or enhanced protocols may be added in the coming weeks to reflect the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus omicron variant.”

Penn State’s announcement comes on the heels of the University of Pittsburgh’s decision to begin the spring semester remotely Pitt officials cited rising case numbers in Allegheny County and the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant as the reasons for the changes.

Between Dec. 29-30, Allegheny County reported 1,980 new COVID cases — a new county record. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Centre County — where Penn State’s University Park main campus is located and which has a population of more than 162,000 — recorded 201 COVID cases on Dec. 29.

Penn State officials said students who are symptomatic should get tested, isolate themselves from others and notify the school’s contract-tracing team. Officials said they have “ample quarantine and isolation space for on-campus students,” but that they are “strongly encouraging” students and faculty to get COVID-19 booster shots.