Pennsylvania tightens COVID-19 restrictions as cases rise

Colleges and universities will be required to test students returning to campus after fall and winter breaks.

Pennsylvania issued new requirements for colleges and universities to enforce mask-wearing and test students upon returning to campus today. JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Pennsylvania will require visitors to the state to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival and mandate mask-wearing between people of different households even when social distance is maintained as cases soar in the commonwealth, Health Secretary Rachel Levine announced today.

Per the new guidelines, colleges and universities are now required to test students when returning from fall and winter breaks. Institutions should also have the capacity to quarantine and isolate students as well as enforce mask orders, Levine said.

Temple University has offered free testing with same-day results to students departing for fall break in Mitten Hall until Nov. 20, The Temple News reported. The university will suspend many in-person operations after Nov. 20 until the spring semester, though it is unclear which facilities, if any, will remain open, The Temple News reported.

Temple already mandates mask-wearing and has set aside Johnson and Hardwick halls as isolation housing, wrote Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in an email to The Temple News.

“Temple University is well positioned to comply with Gov. Wolf’s announcement,” Betzner wrote. 

Temple is preparing to administer 26,000 tests per week for students and employees in the spring semester, The Temple News reported. Students who live on campus or take in-person classes will be mandatorily tested twice per week, and those who live off campus will be eligible for one test per week. 

Sixty-two of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania have a COVID-19 positivity rate above 5 percent, Levine said. Although there are no current plans for any shutdowns or stay-at-home orders, Levine urged people to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.

“We want people to follow the guidance, we want people to telework as much as possible, and we want people to isolate and quarantine,” Levine said. “As we do all that and work together, we’ll be able to stop the spread.”

The new commonwealth guidelines follow Philadelphia’s announcement it would ban indoor gatherings between people from different households and suspend indoor dining beginning on Nov. 20 until Jan. 1, 2021, in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, The Temple News reported. Philadelphia’s plans also include reducing capacity limits for outdoor dining and retail stores along with closing libraries, gyms, museums and high schools. 

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