Behavior limits COVID-19 spread between University and community


When universities across the U.S. opted to return students to campus for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic in the fall of 2020, surrounding communities were understandably concerned that COVID-19 infection rates would significantly increase.

In response, several Penn State researchers formed the Centre County COVID-19 Data 4 Action Project (D4A) to conduct anonymous surveys and biological testing for nonstudent residents and Penn State students to document the social and economic impacts of the pandemic in one community.

According to project co-principal investigator Matthew Ferrari, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences Career Development Professor and professor of biology, the biological testing involved collecting blood, saliva, and hair samples from community resident and student volunteers to test for the presence of antibodies to COVID-19.

“We discovered that despite a high positivity rate among students in the fall, the positivity rate in the nonstudent residents remained stable from before student arrival to after their departure in December,” said Ferrari. “This indicated that there was the potential for containing the virus in sub-populations.”

The D4A project is an ongoing and interdisciplinary collaboration among Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and Clinical and Translational Science Institute and includes faculty members from six Penn State colleges. The work was also supported by Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences.

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process