DEGREES OF DEBT: Penn State

A tour of future students and their parents passes Old Main on Penn State's University Park campus on Aug. 6, 2015.

College communities continued to drive COVID-19 cases up in Indiana and Centre counties, with the latter adding more than 200 new positives to its count Tuesday.

Centre County now stands at 1,449 cases after adding 212 cases.

According to Penn State University’s own COVID-19 data center, the school has added 708 positive cases involving students since Sept. 8.

Indiana County added 19 more cases, at a time IUP students have also been adding to that total.

Closer to home, Cambria County added two cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 527.

Somerset County’s caseload remained unchanged.

Bedford County added one case and now has 213 total, while Blair County is now at 536 cases after adding four more Tuesday, according to the Department of Health.

Clearfield County added two cases.

Westmoreland County is now at 1,993 cases after adding eight more Tuesday.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine voiced concern about spiking caseloads on college campuses Monday, saying they are “uniquely positioned” to help change the course of the spread in Pennsylvania.

Coronavirus spreading on campus can affect the communities around the colleges and universities, she said. Community spread can affect businesses, schools and long-term care homes in those areas.

“What happens on campus directly impacts everyone off campus and in the community,” Levine said.

Pennsylvania added 1,151 total positive cases statewide Tuesday, meaning nearly one in five were from Centre County.

Order ‘not an end’

A federal judge’s decision in a Butler County case, which state officials plan to appeal, is not a blanket end to protection and mitigation orders the Department of Health has issued, Levine said Tuesday.

“The orders that the governor and I put in place on mask-wearing, mandatory telework, worker safety, building safety and hospital safety are all still in effect to protect Pennsylvanians, especially our front-line workers,” Levine said.

While an ongoing court battle will determine if some of Gov. Tom Wolf’s previous closure orders and gathering restrictions went too far – a ruling a U.S. District Court judge issued this week  – other existing and “still valid” orders remain, she said.

“(Those) orders were put in place in the absence of any federal leadership at a time when life-saving decisions needed to be made. Saving lives has been the cornerstone of all of our decisions, including the orders referenced in the case that have since expired,” she said.

Hospital restrictions

Current COVID-19 trends in the region have prompted the Conemaugh Health System to begin allowing visitors – on a limited basis – inside its hospitals, a spokesman said Tuesday.

It marks a shift from a “zero visitor protocol” that had been in place for several months – and is effective immediately, Marketing Communications Coordinator Kyle Adams said in a release to media.

And that means “most” patients will be able to have one visitor in their room at a time during stays, he said.

“The decision was made as current projections continue to indicate a lower than expected volume of COVID-19 in the region and after careful review of state and federal guidance,” Adams said.

He noted patients who are immuno-compromised or under-observation for COVID-19 still cannot have visitors.

Visitors will be screened at the hospital entrance, must provide contact information and wear a mask while inside the medical center, Adams said.

Conemaugh Health System continues to screen everyone who enters the facility for symptoms consistent with COVID-19, per CDC guidelines, hospital officials  said.

Restaurant inspections

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture conducted a dozen COVID-19-related restaurant inspections statewide last week – all of which were driven by consumer complaints to the department, their latest statistics show.

Five resulted being forwarded to county or local-level health departments for further review, while two formal warning letters were issued, the department indicated in a release to media Tuesday.

The Department of Agriculture inspects licensed restaurants for health and safety across Pennsylvania and since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak that has expanded to ensure restaurants have enforced social distancing, masking and complying with occupancy limits.

No Cambria or Somerset county restaurants received COVID-19 inspection over the past week, according to the department’s data.

Ten Cambria County restaurants and nine in Somerset County received routine health and safety inspections. 

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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