SRU sees surge in COVID-19

September 16, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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A masked Slippery Rock student walks into the Robert N. Aebersold Student Rec Center on Sept. 4. SRU has seen 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise at Slippery Rock University, but President William Behre trusts his students will make the right choices.

“A subset of our students have made decisions I wish they wouldn't have made,” Behre said. “I encourage our students be sensible about this.”

SRU has a cumulative case total of 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 20, with 21 of those cases being confirmed between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2.

Behre said he has often heard the argument that because the death rate is low in young people, there is no reason to fear COVID-19.

“Why take that risk at this point?” Behre said. “Young people can suffer damages from this disease, short of death. There's a lot of bad things that can occur before death, and permanent problems that can occur.”

Cases system wide

SRU is one of five universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to reach double digits in confirmed cases.

Bloomsburg, which has 216 cases, and Lock Haven, with 45 cases, have both in recent weeks switched to remote learning.

“The lessons we learned from the spring are being applied now,” said Dave Pidgeon, a PASSHE spokesman.

Kutztown, with 27 cases, and West Chester, with 16 cases, also join SRU in the top five, although those two schools and Lock Haven started one week later than Bloomsburg and SRU.

“Our leadership is certainly in consultation with the leadership of all the universities,” Pidgeon said. “The ultimate decision lies within the university leadership. That's the framework we set up.”

In the same way PASSHE has been keeping tabs on its schools, Behre said SRU officials have remained in weekly communication with Allegheny Health Network.

“I have a feeling that if we ever make the decision to go fully remote, it's going to be because we realize the caseload is getting too much for our capabilities,” Behre said. “So far, our resources are adequate, and they're up to the task.”

While SRU has isolation procedures in place for students who test positive, the spread of the virus on campus could affect Butler County's data as well, according to Maggi Mumma, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“The case will count where they spend the most time, and since they would be on campus more of the year than at home, that would be on campus,” Mumma said.

Any student physically attending classes, even out-of-state or international students, would factor into the data of the county in which the campus is located. However, the state also takes remote learning into consideration; and if a student is learning remotely, their case is attributed to their permanent residence.

“These details would be determined through the case investigation process,” Mumma said.

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Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.