On March 26, Penn State encouraged all residents living in East Halls to receive a coronavirus test after positive tests were reported in the complex’s various buildings.
While some have wondered if East Halls is a “cluster” location for coronavirus cases, the university has not defined it as such.
“I’m not so sure it’s a cluster,” Penn State President Eric Barron said during a March 26 webinar. “We have much greater testing capacity today, and it is both rapid and takes quick action to isolate individuals.”
Matt Ferrari, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State, added that while East Halls experienced an increase in positive cases, there was a “broadscale” increase in positive coronavirus cases at Penn State as a whole.
However, residents of the complex noticed few changes in the environment of their buildings after the announcement. There were no reported mass gatherings at East Halls during the last few weeks, either.
Katie Dinsmore lives in Stone Hall — one of the first buildings in the complex asked to test students on March 17 — where she said she didn’t notice any changes.
“When it was announced there was an outbreak in our dorm, I guess we were a little shocked,” Dinsmore (freshman-theatre) said. “We just took extra precautions and got tested.”
Dinsmore added neither she nor anyone she knows in Stone Hall tested positive for coronavirus.
According to Dinsmore, the university did a “good job” warning people in Stone Hall about the positive coronavirus cases and recommending students get tested.
Another student living in Stone Hall, Mary Haddad, noted a minor change in the general attitude of residents following the announcement of the positive cases.
“I honestly didn’t know there were a lot of positive cases until [the university] emailed us,” Haddad (freshman-finance) said. “I think everyone became a lot more cautious as a result, and we all got tested.”
Haddad said two of her friends who live down the hall from her tested positive. However, she had not come in contact with them in “a long time.”
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She said she felt “nervous” when she received the email from the university, especially since Stone Hall is an unrenovated dorm with communal bathrooms.
“There’s a lot more shared spaces,” Haddad said.
Nicole Taggart is another student living in East Halls — she lives in Earle Hall, another dorm where the university encouraged students to seek coronavirus testing.
Taggart (freshman-division of undergraduate studies) said she also noticed very few changes in the environment of the building following the announcement of positive coronavirus cases.
“It kind of came as a shock to me when the [resident assistants] said that,” Taggart said.
She said she didn’t know anyone who tested positive for coronavirus in Earle at the time of the outbreak.
There are some inconsistencies in coronavirus regulations in different East Halls buildings though, according to Taggart, which she thinks could have contributed to the positive cases. She said different buildings allow some residents to spend time in lobbies while Earle does not.
“I wish there was some continuity throughout the buildings,” Taggart said. “It’s just very odd.”