In case you missed it: News from winter break 2020

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Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Bigelow Boulevard reopened on Dec. 24, marking the completion of the almost $24-million project that began in November 2019.

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

While students and staff enjoyed time away from campus at home, things didn’t come to a complete halt on campus. Here are some of the biggest stories from the break so you’re up to date when you get back to campus.

Bigelow Boulevard reopened

The construction on Bigelow Boulevard finished, and the road reopened on Dec. 24. This is the ending of an almost $24-million project, which began in November 2019. The project was originally supposed to be completed by the fall semester, but was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions. While there were no formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies or in-person events to commemorate the reopening, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a press release that the new road design is safer and more accessible to Pitt students and the community around them.

Community concerned about proposed new Oakland apartment building

Community members raised concerns about the planned apartment building on Forbes Avenue at an Oakland Planning and Development Corp. meeting on Dec. 15. The new apartment building, similar in design to its neighbors SkyVue Apartments and Bridge on Forbes, would be located on the site of the old Marathon gas station on the corner of Forbes, McKee Place and Semple Street.

At the meeting, residents brought up concerns about the housing market in the area, the possibility of gentrification and the threat of pricing locals out of their homes in the area. Wanda Wilson, director of the OPDC, said the new development only worsens the lack of affordable housing in the area. According to Kevin McKeegan, the lawyer for the developer, the developer plans on pricing the apartments at market price but is open to further discussions.

A representative, Chris Bell, from Family House, a local nonprofit that provides housing for those in the hospital as well as their families, voiced concerns about the new housing development and its close proximity to the nonprofit’s McKee Place location. Bell said he worried about noise and pollution from the complex, but McKeegan assured Bell that all trash and loading would take place within the building and the parking garage flow is designed to not affect the Family House.

Wilson said the OPDC will continue to work with the development company to gather more information.

Gallagher commends Pitt’s fall COVID-19 performance

Gallagher said at the Dec. 10 Senate Council meeting that Pitt is “best in class of major universities” in regards to its number of COVID-19 cases. He said Pitt encourages students to allow as much flexibility as possible with their travel plans when returning back to campus. But Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office sent out an email on Jan. 8 discouraging students from traveling back to campus yet, without stating a new date to move in.

Dr. Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, said students need to continue to wear masks and social distance, even with vaccine distribution underway nationwide. Dr. John Williams, Pitt’s COVID-19 chief, spoke highly of students’ fall behavior but also said traveling anywhere is a risk for exposure.

Pitt reported 122 COVID-19 cases among students and employees over break, from Dec. 8 to Jan. 8. This brings the total positive cases reported from June 26 up to a combined 978 students and employees.

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