Pitt adds 21 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 21 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 17 students and four employees, between Friday and Monday. This follows an increase of 10 new cases, composed of eight students and two employees, between last Tuesday and Thursday.

This is the third case report since the University moved to the Guarded Risk posture on Oct. 19. The presidents of both the Student Government Board and the University Senate said they are very concerned about this decision.

The University recently advised students to complete a 10-day shelter-in-place period starting Nov. 12 before leaving for Thanksgiving break, though Pitt will allow students to attend in-person classes and other academic activities. The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said students should only leave their rooms to attend in-person classes, labs or clinicals, pick up food, exercise safely, go to the library, work and shop for essentials and medical needs.

The CMRO said Tuesday evening that the uptick in cases “may be attributed to a few clusters of infected households.”

“We are learning more through contact tracing and watching closely to see what happens in the next few days,” the office said. “We must do everything in our power to keep this virus from spreading on our campuses, including being aware of and addressing pandemic fatigue.”

The University has had 350 students and 39 employees test positive since June 26, with 326 students and 32 employees recovered thus far. There are 24 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 been using the new Flex@Pitt teaching model, which allows students to experience classes “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously.” Provost Ann 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. No random testing data was immediately available on Pitt’s website, leaving Pitt’s total positivity rate at 0.34%.

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.