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Penn State student dies from COVID-19 complications

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 7/4/2020 By Grace Dickinson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
a large clock tower sitting in the grass: Old Main is pictured on the Penn State University campus in State College, Pa., on June 23. © TIM TAI/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS Old Main is pictured on the Penn State University campus in State College, Pa., on June 23.

Juan Garcia, a 21-year-old student at Pennsylvania State University, died Tuesday from respiratory failure and coronavirus complications, school officials said Thursday. Garcia, from Allentown, is the first Penn State student known to have died from COVID-19-related causes.

“I know our entire campus community sends our deepest condolences to his family and friends as they grieve this unthinkable loss,” Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs, said in a news release. “It is a poignant reminder that no one among us is immune to the worst consequences of this virus.”

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The university said Garcia was living off campus in State College when he began to feel sick. He returned home to Allentown on June 19 and was tested for the coronavirus the next day.

“He was the most genuine person I ever met, very kind, and he always tried to see the best in people,” said fellow Penn State student Lisbeth Brito, 21, who also went to middle and high school with Garcia. “It’s a shock to everyone — we talked about going to grad school together. I’m still in disbelief that he’s gone.”

Brito said Garcia had just one semester left until graduation, and described him as someone who was “always on top of his work” and “always striving to be his best.” He studied in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Nationwide, many states are reporting a recent increase in COVID-19 cases among younger people. In Philadelphia, there were 99 positive test results among those 16 to 19 the week of June 14, city data showed, more than double the numbers for the previous two weeks. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the surge is partly due to trips to the Jersey Shore and socializing.

Penn State is in the process of contact-tracing to notify those who may have been in close contact with Garcia while he was contagious. Those who believe they may have been in contact with Garcia should call the University Health Services 24/7 Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463.

What if students won’t wear masks in class? Professors want assurances that universities will enforce a mandate.“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,” Robin Oliver-Veronesi, Penn State’s senior director of University Health Services, said in the release. “While each of our risk levels are different, this virus has shown that it can have devastating effects on even those who are younger.”

Garcia’s family and friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses. As of Friday night, the campaign has more than doubled its $10,000 goal.


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