Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt added 38 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 16 students and 22 employees, between Dec. 18 and Monday, with eight students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering Dec. 15 to Dec. 17, included 13 cases.
This is the first case report of 2021 and arrives two weeks before the spring semester will begin on Jan. 19. The report also arrives after the Allegheny County Health Department and state health officials have continued to report soaring case numbers. According to hospital data compiled by The New York Times, around 86% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 80% statewide and 77% nationally. UPMC Shadyside has two ICU beds remaining.
With the spring semester approaching, University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said Tuesday that Pitt will release return to campus plans “later this week.” Pitt officials have said the University will use the [email protected] teaching model again this spring, with a modified academic calendar.
Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said it is working with state and local officials to acquire vaccines and plan for distribution within the Pitt community. The federal government has approved two vaccines thus far — one by Pfizer-BioNTech and another by Moderna.
“Pitt has formed committees to establish priority groups for vaccination, per CDC and state guidelines, and to oversee the logistics of vaccine distribution,” the office said. “We will update you and provide more details once vaccination plans are finalized.”
The CMRO also said with Oakland “largely empty” due to winter break, there is little spread of the virus currently.
The University has had 816 students and 144 employees test positive since June 26, with 808 students and 135 employees recovered thus far.
There are eight 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 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 data on Pitt’s dashboard is from Dec. 16.
The University implemented a variety of new policies due to the pandemic during the fall semester, though some community members questioned 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.