Pitt adds 16 new COVID-19 cases since Tuesday

By Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief

Pitt added 16 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 14 students and two employees, between Tuesday and Thursday, with 25 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Friday to Monday, included 20 cases.

This is the fourth case report of 2021 and arrives four days before the spring semester begins next Tuesday. 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 89% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 81% statewide and 79% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 104% capacity and has no ICU beds remaining.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said Wednesday that students living on campus can plan to move into their dorms beginning in late January on one of four dates — Jan. 29, Jan. 31, Feb. 3 or Feb. 5. The office also released shelter-in-place guidance and testing requirements for students.

The CMRO also said while there are fewer people on campus due to winter break, the virus is “still present.”

“Cases remain high in the region. Continued vigilance is important,” the office said.

The University has had 853 students and 161 employees test positive since June 26, with 828 students and 150 employees recovered thus far.

There are 25 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. Out of 46 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Monday, and 90 students tested Wednesday, one was positive, leading Pitt’s total prevalence rate to increase slightly from 0.42% to 0.43%.

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.

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