Pitt adds 9 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added nine new COVID-19 cases, composed of eight students and one employee, between last Friday and Monday, with 20 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday and Thursday, included 16 cases.

This is the spring semester’s first case report and 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 85% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 81% statewide and 79% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 102% capacity and has no ICU beds remaining.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said last 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 “constant vigilance” is essential for the safety of students, staff and the community — especially with the new variant of the virus.

“With a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 spreading, we must resist the temptation to relax mitigation measures and our own health practices,” the office said.

The CMRO also said the University is working on a vaccine distribution plan and updates will be provided as they are available. 

The University has had 861 students and 162 employees test positive since June 26, with 841 students and 154 employees recovered thus far.

There are 20 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 last Wednesday.

The University implemented a variety of new policies due to the pandemic during the spring semester, though some community members questioned whether the safeguards are sufficient. Students will move into dorms in four cohorts, beginning in late January and continuing into early February. They need to have a negative COVID-19 test before moving back to Pittsburgh. Additionally, students are encouraged to shelter in place at least seven days before moving in. Once on campus, students are required to shelter in place again for at least 10 days or until the CMRO announces that it’s safe to move about campus. Students may attend classes during this time. 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.