Pitt adds 35 COVID-19 cases since Monday


Wu Caiyi | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt’s outdoor COVID-19 testing site is located outside Posvar Hall.

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 35 new COVID-19 cases, composed entirely of students, between Monday and Thursday, continuing an upward trend in reported cases. This follows an increase of 37 new cases, composed of 36 students and one employee, between last Friday and Monday.

The increase in cases arrives as some classes will transition in person in the coming weeks. Provost Ann Cudd announced Wednesday that faculty members can apply to teach their classes in person if there is a “definable benefit” to in-person instruction, and if an instructor’s dean or regional campus president approves teaching plans. Pitt has been using the new Flex@Pitt teaching model, which allows students to experience classes “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously.”

The University has had a total of 199 students and 29 employees test positive since June 26, with 106 students and 27 employees recovered thus far. Four of the last seven days have seen double-digit increases in student cases, according to data reported by Pitt.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said students need to be “vigilant” to keep cases down. Dr. John Williams, the office’s leader, said the “biggest chunk” of current positive cases is related to “unmasked activity and symptomatic students living off campus.”

“The take-home message here is that although surveillance testing numbers remain very low, which is encouraging and suggests most people are following the health rules, campus cases remain steadily elevated,” the office said. “This means that we need to remain vigilant. We still need to flatten the curve.”

The office also urged students to watch the Saturday football season opener against Austin Peay with pod or household members, and to avoid large gatherings with food or drink. No fans will be permitted to attend football games in-person at Heinz Field for the month of September.

Pitt has implemented a systematic, random testing strategy, where it has said it will test several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Out of 514 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Monday and Wednesday, there was one positive case, leading Pitt’s total prevalence rate to fall slightly to 0.33%. This is a slight decrease compared to the 0.36% prevalence rate reported Sept. 2.

There are 93 students currently in isolation housing, which is reserved for those who have either a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. Pitt has a capacity of 179 beds, with the ability to add 20 more.

The University has implemented a variety of new policies due to the pandemic, though some community members question whether the safeguards are sufficient. All students were asked to shelter in place for seven days before and after arriving in Oakland, though officials have said Pitt will not track whether or not students have completed the shelter-in-place period. Pitt has also planned testing of students to monitor the virus’s spread, required students, faculty and staff to complete COVID-19 training and imposed strict penalties for violations of health guidelines.

Kenyon Bonner, the vice provost and dean of students, said student organizations that host a party or event can face suspension, and students hosting large parties can be suspended. Students living on campus who attend large parties can have their housing suspended for the semester, and students living off campus can be switched to persona non grata status, preventing them from entering University buildings or property.