Coronavirus Testing, White Building

Students sit six-feet apart waiting for emailed coronavirus test results inside the White Building’s mandatory coronavirus testing center on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

Many people have been looking ahead beyond the pandemic to a time when society can resume normalcy — though some are wondering how to prevent 2020 from repeating itself.

Frank Ritter is one of those people, and a co-author of the book and Penn State class, “Skills to Obstruct Pandemics,” which answers that very question.

“STOP,” a book co-authored by three Penn State professors, explains steps people can take to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like the coronavirus. Penn State offered a class this semester that has been studying the book.

Ritter, a professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technologies at Penn State, was the first author of the book.

He said he helped organize his own work and the work of his co-authors into one cohesive book, and also added some introductions and conclusions in certain parts.

“[‘STOP’] is a book that is designed to provide a deeper level of explanation than a poster on what the skills are to stop pandemics,” Ritter said.

Ritter said the book provides simple tips — like keeping extra masks and hand sanitizer in your car — that can help stop the spread of respiratory viruses.

“It’s probably completely redundant,” Ritter said. “But if you ever forget, [‘STOP’] helps protect you.”

Ritter said there’s a “tension” between having a college experience and being in a pandemic — citing the spike in cases that some college towns, like State College, experienced last fall.

Ritter advised Penn State students to meet in outdoor settings, avoid non-ventilated settings, wear a mask and try not to meet new people, which he said is the most difficult part. He also condemned off-campus partying.

“It’s understandable but wrong,” Ritter said. “If everybody did whatever they were supposed to do for a month, this would all be over.”

STOP

In regard to the class centered around the book, Ritter said six students are currently taking the course this semester.

“They seem to be getting some value from reading the book,” Ritter said.

Ritter said he believes it’s the first university course for credit that explains how to stop the spread of pandemics in the United States. He added that he thinks other universities should create courses similar to this one.

“There’s a lot of details that need to be explained with the world,” Ritter said. “I wish that all levels of leadership and administration should help get out a slightly more sophisticated message.”

Ritter said following the advice in the book shows “respect and courtesy” to others.

“That’s what will slow down the spread,” Ritter said.

Amanda Clase, an associate professor in the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State, was another co-author of the book and a microbiologist specializing in viruses.

Clase said she feels the public doesn’t fully understand some of the rules and suggestions made by public health officials regarding the pandemic.

“By giving a little extra background on why these rules are in place, it helps people understand why the science changes as we learn more,” Clase said.

Clase helped provide expertise on viruses and explain the biology side of the coronavirus in “STOP.”

She said she didn’t have to do any research for the book, because it’s primarily based on providing context for health recommendations.

Clase advised students at Penn State to heed to the advice given in “STOP.”

“A lot of students of [college] age don’t necessarily feel that the virus is going to give them a lot of problems, and they may be right,” Clase said. “But they do have to understand that there are individuals who are more susceptible.”

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Oliver Ferguson is an administration and Greek life/THON reporter for The Daily Collegian. He is a freshman studying political science.