Pitt adds 18 COVID-19 cases since Monday

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 18 new COVID-19 cases, composed entirely of students, between Monday and Thursday, continuing an upward trend in reported cases, though less than in previous case reports. This follows an increase of 22 new cases, composed entirely of students, between last Friday and Monday.

This is the second case report since more classes moved in person Monday. Provost Ann Cudd announced last 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 239 students and 29 employees test positive since June 26, with 175 students and 28 employees recovered thus far. Two of the last seven days have seen no new student cases reported, and three days have seen single-digit increases in student cases, according to data reported by Pitt.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said Thursday that he expects the Flex@Pitt model to continue into the spring semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also said it’s likely that next semester’s schedule will be compressed similar to the fall so there aren’t vacations where people leave and come back to campus.

“The planning context for the spring is that the virus is still with us,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think we’re looking at a significant change in the framework, until there’s a significant change in the pandemic.”

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said the lower number of new positive cases this week “suggests that mitigation efforts, such as wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing, are working to keep cases from spiking.”

“With cold and flu season fast approaching and no way to distinguish cold or flu from COVID-19 by symptoms alone, it’s vital — this year more than ever — to get your seasonal flu shot,” the office said. “Everyone must remain vigilant and report to Student Health Services when symptomatic or potentially exposed to the virus.”

There are 64 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.

Data collected by The Pitt News. Original data collection by Ryan Yang, Online Visual Editor. Archival data by Spotlight PA and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Graph by Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief.

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 605 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Monday and Wednesday, there were three positive cases, leading Pitt’s total prevalence rate to increase slightly to 0.36%. This is a slight increase compared to the 0.33% prevalence rate reported last Friday.

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.