Pitt adds 34 new COVID-19 cases since Tuesday

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 34 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 32 students and two employees, between Friday and Monday. This follows an increase of 18 new cases, composed of 15 students and three employees, between Friday and Monday.

This is the sixth 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.

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 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 the spike in cases should be a “wake-up call” for campus community members and suspects that “some of the positives at the end of the week are a result of unmasked social behavior over Halloween weekend.”

“Your behavior this weekend will impact your health for the next two weeks and could impact the ability of you and your close contacts to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday,” the office said. “We are less than seven days away from sheltering-in-place, so we need everyone to be on their best behavior now. We need to reduce the risk of people infecting their pod or household just before break.”

The University has had 405 students and 45 employees test positive since June 26, with 353 students and 36 employees recovered thus far.

There are 52 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. Out of 270 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested Monday, one was positive, not changing Pitt’s total prevalence rate of 0.31%.

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.