MANSFIELD — The Chamber of Commerce here heard updates from Mansfield University and on the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases during its Tuesday meeting.

Ryan McNamara, director of marketing and communications for Mansfield University, said university officials will meet this week about a new partnership between Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University.

According to a press release from mid-September, the three state universities will “explore opportunities to collaborate and build on their existing strengths, create greater efficiencies, and expand affordable, high-quality educational opportunities for students throughout the region and beyond.”

The “Northeast Integration” would potentially create a unified academic program, a unified leadership team and strengthen Mansfield University, McNamara said. Local identities and traditions will remain, he said.

Once the integration is official, the three will move forward to determine the outcome for some administrative departments, he said.

“This does not mean that Mansfield University will close. This strengthens Mansfield University. It ensures that we can provide higher education and ensure students are successful in the future,” McNamara said.

Originally, Lock Haven and Mansfield were looked at to be integrated, but after a financial review, adding Bloomsburg to the mix adds “support, stability and scalability to increase the probability of success for the State System’s regional landscape,” according to a press release.

A web page is being developed with FAQs.

COVID-19

Tioga County has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases recently, Jim Nobles, vice president of the chamber and chair of the Tioga County COVID-19 task force, said. As of Wednesday morning, Tioga County had 122 total cases, with 20 in the last seven days.

“This is definitely a shift in our trendline, where we used to be pretty stable … the entire month of September, we had 29 cases …. We’ve already had 30 just in the last week,” Nobles said.

He urges everyone to wear a face covering to help stop the spread.

“I think people were lulled into a slight false sense of security and then we maybe let our guard down a little bit, so we’re not as compliant with the masking and social distancing,” he said.

From a business perspective, he said there’s some ambiguity in the messages that are being put out. He said the task force strongly recommends people wear a face mask. There are several videos and articles that demonstrate how masks work and how it can help cut down transmission on the task force’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/tiogacovidtf.

Nobles hears people say they “can’t wear a mask” for various reasons, but hasn’t found any scientific data to support those claims. Data shows that medical workers who wear masks for longer than 12 hours at a time sometimes get rashes and skin breakdown around the ears, but wearing a mask has not been proven to be harmful to anybody, he said.

Wearing a mask isn’t “fun,” but it is necessary, he said.

“We would do anything necessary if there was a fire, a flood, famine, drought, whatever. Everybody would run towards that disaster and help out … until we’ve asked you to put a four-by-four piece of cloth over your face,” he said.