UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With fall classes set to begin on Aug. 24, a community-wide committee is preparing for Penn State students, tourists and visitors to return to the local area.
“While Penn State’s leadership has been in ongoing contact with local government and community leaders since the beginning of this pandemic, I am pleased this committee has come together to work through the many challenges ahead of us as we plan for students’ return to campus,” said Zack Moore, Penn State vice president for Government and Community Relations.
The committee is working collaboratively in the following areas:
- COVID-19 testing
- Contact tracing
Members of the committee include:
- Zack Moore, vice president for Government and Community Relations, Penn State
- Vern Squier, president and CEO, Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County
- Tom Fountaine, manager, State College Borough
- Charima Young, director of local government and community relations, Penn State
- Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, Penn State
- Douglas Shontz, assistant to the manager, State College Borough
- Lawrence Lokman, vice president for Strategic Communications, Penn State
- Margaret Gray, administrator, Centre County Government
- Rob Schmidt, executive director, Downtown State College Improvement District
- Tom Charles, executive vice president, Mount Nittany Health
- Tom King, assistant borough manager of public safety, State College Borough
“It is crucial that our community has these open lines of communication and that we collaborate to ensure our collective health and safety through this ongoing pandemic,” said Charles. “Everyone must work together to reinforce and engage in practices to prevent and contain the spread of the virus in order to keep our community strong. We are in this together.”
As rapid COVID-19 testing — as well as testing at volume — remains a supply chain issue, the committee is dedicated to finding and executing the best possible solutions. This is especially important as it impacts the efficacy of contact tracing.
“Working together is more important than ever as our community at large faces the challenges ahead,” explained Gray. “Efforts to secure essential resources and services such as contact tracing are certainly enhanced by a strong partnership that focuses on coordination across all aspects of this public health crisis.”
The health of community members — including student community members — is paramount to the vibrancy and economy of the community. Penn State activities make up a significant component of Centre County’s economy, driving additional visitors and revenue into the area. Local residents will benefit from a collaborative and prepared approach to the anticipated increase in activity this fall.
“The efforts of this committee are crucial for the long-term vitality of our economic rejuvenation,” said Squier. “Just as local businesses reopened in a phased and strategic manner, we want to engage the coming increase of people into an environment that is as safe and prepared as possible.”
The delicate balance of health and economy is felt acutely in downtown State College, where many businesses cater to a student or visitor-heavy customer base.
“With the higher density of student population and Penn State-related activities occurring downtown, we are working side-by-side with local businesses and this committee to see that locals and visitors alike may enjoy a healthy and happy downtown experience this fall,” said Schmidt.
Each person has a role to play in the health and recovery of our community. One of the simplest things we can each do is wear a mask to cover our nose and mouth when around others and in places of business, according to health experts. Not only is this required at the state and county levels, but it also demonstrates an individual commitment to community health and economic resurgence.
“In the coming weeks, the State College Borough Council will be taking up a mask enforcement ordinance,” said Fountaine. “If passed, there will be penalties for those that do not comply with the mask requirement.”
As with testing, quarantine and contact tracing, any new ordinance and potential penalties would be shared extensively with both the student population and local residents.
“This committee will continue to communicate with our respective constituencies through the proper communication channels,” said Young. “Our goal is to have integrated workstreams in place between the campus and community as we gear up for a healthy and productive fall semester.”