Pitt adds 13 COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 13 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 12 students and one employee, between Friday and Monday, continuing an upward trend in reported cases, though less than in previous case reports. This follows an increase of 18 new cases, composed entirely of students, between last Monday and Thursday.

This is the third case report since more classes moved in person last Monday. Provost Ann Cudd announced Sept. 9 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 251 students and 30 employees test positive since June 26, with 209 students and 29 employees recovered thus far. One of the last seven days has seen no new student cases reported, and six days have seen single-digit increases in student cases, according to data reported by Pitt.

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.

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 exiting isolation does not guarantee immunity to the virus and it is possible to become reinfected and spread to others.

“It’s been 10 days since we’ve seen double-digit cases on our Pittsburgh campus. We’re also starting to see more people coming out of isolation than are entering isolation each day, which is encouraging,” the office said. “No one is exempt from wearing a face covering or from practicing physical distancing.”

The office said to notify Student Health Service or MyHealth@Work to help ensure proper care coordination if a student or employee receives an evaluation and positive COVID-19 diagnosis outside the Pitt testing system.

“By self-reporting, you help us improve our ability to control the virus on our campuses,” the office said.

There are 42 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.

Pitt has implemented a systematic, random testing strategy, where it has said it will test several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Since Friday’s case report, no new random tests were administered.

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 who 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.