Pitt working to recall students from coronavirus-afflicted countries


Photo via Dr. Fred Murphy | CDC

Pitt announced it is reviewing its pandemic preparedness plan, which includes setting up a centralized website for reliable updates about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

By Jon Moss, News Editor

Pitt announced Friday that it is working to bring students home “as soon as practicable” from three of the countries most impacted by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said Pitt has notified 41 students studying in Italy, South Korea and Japan that they should return to their home communities in the United States. After arrival, they should practice social distancing, a virus containment technique where a distance of three feet is maintained from people who are coughing or sneezing, for 14 days. Pitt previously announced last month all study abroad programming in China for the term has either been cancelled or had the location changed.

“We are continuing to monitor new developments both locally and around the world and remain in close communication with our students, faculty and staff about their travel plans,” Zwick said.

Cases of the virus, and the COVID-19 disease it causes, have been reported in more than 45 countries around the world, with more than 2,800 deaths so far. The University, as well as the City, announced Thursday that they have each updated their pandemic preparedness plans and are ready for a possible coronavirus outbreak.

After Friday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said the University has taken a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” posture.

“Since the risk is so variable, we’re leaning on the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the World Health Organization and tying our response to what they’re doing,” Gallagher said. “The situation could be entirely different tomorrow. It’s an evolving situation.”

Pitt researchers are working to alleviate the spread of the disease. At a Senate Council meeting on Feb. 13, Paul Duprex, the Jonas Salk chair for vaccine research and director of Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research, said Pitt scientists will receive samples of SARS-CoV-2 to develop a vaccine or other intervention method.

Duprex said vaccine development will not be easy, but it is important work.

“We have a disease which is new, we have a disease which is spreading and we have no ability to intervene in that infection,” Duprex said.

Pitt students can contact the Student Health Service at 412-383-1800, and Pitt faculty and staff can contact the Employee Health Clinic at 412-647-4949.