Pitt adds 112 new COVID-19 cases since Nov. 23

By Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief

Pitt added 112 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 90 students and 22 employees, between Nov. 23 and Thursday, with two students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, included 38 cases.

This is the sixth case report since Nov. 9, when the University moved back to the Elevated Risk posture and told students to shelter in place immediately. The University previously advised students to complete a 10-day shelter-in-place period starting Nov. 12 before leaving for Thanksgiving break, though Pitt allowed students to attend in-person classes and other academic activities.

The case report also arrives after the Allegheny County Health Department reported a record 1,028 cases on Thursday, an all-time high after several weeks of record-shattering numbers of new cases. As of Friday, there are 100 adult ICU beds left across the county, about 12% of capacity.

Students had access to at-home COVID-19 tests after they went home for Thanksgiving break, per a program run by Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office. The University partnered with testing company Quest Diagnostics to offer one optional, self-collected COVID-19 test to all students, if ordered by Nov. 30.

The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said Quest has processed 2,688 COVID-19 tests so far, with 43 positives, reflecting a 1.6% positivity rate. The 43 positive tests are included in the total of 90 students testing positive since Nov. 23.

“This rate aligns with the surveillance testing trends we observed on our Pittsburgh campus over the last two weeks,” the office said. “This also shows that most students did a great job with sheltering in place.”

The CMRO added that the number of cases among Pitt employees is rising, which the office said is “likely reflecting the high rates of transmission in Allegheny County.”

“A University contact tracer must clear an employee returning to work on campus after quarantining,” the office said.

The University has had 745 students and 86 employees test positive since June 26, with 700 students and 67 employees recovered thus far.

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.

There are two students currently isolated at home or in Pitt’s isolation housing, which is reserved for those who have either a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. Pitt has a total of about 300 isolation beds.

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. The most recent random testing session on Pitt’s data dashboard is from Nov. 18.

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.