Pitt adds 19 COVID-19 cases since Thursday


Wu Caiyi | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt added six new COVID-19 cases, composed entirely of students, between Friday and Monday.

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 19 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 18 students and one employee, between Friday and Monday, continuing a recent trend of case reports in the double digits. This follows an increase of 13 new cases, composed entirely of students, between last Monday and Thursday.

This is the fifth case report since more classes moved in person on Sept. 14. Provost Ann Cudd announced Sept. 9 that faculty members could 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 283 students and 31 employees test positive since June 26, with 250 students and 30 employees recovered thus far. The last seven days have all 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 Sept. 17 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 case counts are “holding steady” heading into fall, but the office is closely watching what happens as the weather cools and more people opt to stay inside. The office also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot and wearing a mask.

“In addition to preventing the flu, having a flu shot could prevent symptoms that require an unnecessary quarantine for COVID-19,” the office said. “This year more than ever before, we all have a part to play in not overtaxing our local health care systems. That includes getting a flu shot and practicing good hand hygiene.”

There are 33 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. The University has run two rounds of random testing for students without COVID-19 symptoms in the last week and a half — two of 145 students tested positive last Wednesday and none of 203 students tested positive Monday — raising Pitt’s total prevalence rate slightly from 0.36% to 0.38%.

Pitt spokesperson Pat McMahon did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Friday’s case report about why no random testing data for last Wednesday was immediately available.

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.