Penn State extends online classes 'at least' through spring, postpones graduation

Mark Scolforo and Marc Levy
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG – Penn State University on Wednesday canceled in-person classes for the rest of the spring semester, citing the coronavirus pandemic, as state officials announced a 40% jump in the number of confirmed cases.

Penn State, which enrolls about 100,000 students at 20 campuses throughout the state, had previously planned to resume live classroom instruction on April 6 but said it needed to take more dramatic action “based on on evolving federal guidance and statewide mitigation plans announced by Gov. Tom Wolf around the growing coronavirus pandemic.”

The university announced that exams will take place remotely, and commencement will be postponed. Officials said students will be told when they can return to pick up personal belongings inside campus residences.

The university’s president, Eric J. Barron, said the school will honor its graduates in some form.

“Graduation is a significant milestone for our students, and while it may not be the same as our traditional ceremony, we are committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of our graduates,” he said.

Confirmed cases in Pennsylvania topped 180 as of Thursday, rising by 52, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. About two-thirds of confirmed cases have been in southeastern Pennsylvania. The majority of testing is now being done by private labs.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

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