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First Penn State Student Dies of COVID-19

Penn State is one of the universities that plans to offer in-person instruction for the fall 2020 term

A Penn State Nittany Lions flag flies before the game against the Temple Owls on September 17, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

A 21-year-old man from Allentown is the first known Pennsylvania State University student to die of COVID-19, the school announced.

Juan Garcia, a College of Earth and Mineral Sciences student, died June 30 of respiratory failure and COVID-19, Penn state said in a Thursday news release.

“While I did not know Juan personally, we have learned through conversations with those closest to him that this young man had a remarkable spirit and was greatly loved,” Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said in a statement. “I know our entire campus community sends our deepest condolences to his family and friends as they grieve this unthinkable loss.”

The school said Garcia began feeling ill while living off campus in State College. He went back to Allentown June 19 and was tested for the disease the next day.

Penn State is working to trace anyone who may have been in contact with Garcia while he was contagious. Those who think they may have come into contact with him are urged to call the University Health Services 24/7 Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463.

The university said it is offering support to Garcia’s family, and officials said his death is a reminder of the risk of the virus.

“As we mourn the loss of Juan and offer support to his family and friends, I hope we all also will honor his memory by taking every precaution to help slow the spread of the virus and keep ourselves and others safe and healthy,” said Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services.

Like other states, Pennsylvania has seen a recent surge of infections after reopening some industries. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a mandatory mask order as a result.

Penn State is one of the universities that plans to offer in-person instruction for the fall 2020 term. Its reopening plan “can meet or exceed the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s guidelines for colleges and universities,” the school said in a separate news release.

Penn State’s fall semester starts Aug. 24

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