Pitt adds 7 COVID-19 cases since Monday

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added seven new COVID-19 cases, composed entirely of students, between Monday and Thursday. This follows an increase of six new cases, composed entirely of students, between last Friday and Monday.

The new test results arrive after the University placed three floors of Litchfield Tower B in quarantine, and the remainder of the building into shelter-in-place, last Friday evening after an increase in virus cases among building residents over the last several weeks. Pitt “invited” the building’s roughly 360 total residents to be tested for COVID-19 beginning Monday, and the shelter in place order ended Wednesday afternoon.

Pitt spokesperson Pat McMahon said last Friday that there had been nine positive cases reported between Sept. 23 and last Friday in the Central Oakland residence hall, which is Pitt’s largest. McMahon added that 262 residents from Tower B have been tested for COVID-19 since Oct. 2, the day that the shelter-in-place began, with all tests coming back negative.

Pitt’s Oakland campus will move to Guarded risk on Oct. 19 if case numbers remain low, officials announced Friday morning, though the presidents of Student Government Board and the University Senate said they are very concerned about the decision.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said life in the Guarded risk posture is not a return to normal.

“Everyone must continue to wear a face covering in public, maintain proper physical distance from others and minimize new close contacts,” the office said. “Guarded risk posture does, however, offer more flexibility in terms of in-person learning and dining options.”

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.

The University has had 302 students and 31 employees test positive since June 26, with 284 students and 31 employees recovered thus far. Two of the last seven days have seen no new positive cases, according to data reported by Pitt.

There are 18 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.

Friday’s case report is the eighth 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.”

Cudd announced Sept. 30 that the Flex@Pitt model will continue into the spring semester as the pandemic continues, and the spring will have an adjusted schedule.

Pitt has implemented a systematic, random testing strategy, where it has said it will test several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays. McMahon said Pitt replaced the Monday surveillance testing with the Tower B testing, and Friday surveillance testing results will be reported Tuesday.

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 said Pitt would not track whether or not students had 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.

This article has been updated with test results for Tower B residents. Pitt spokesperson Pat McMahon originally said Tuesday that the University would release building-wide test results Friday, but did not make the figures available until Monday afternoon.