Pitt adds 13 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 13 new COVID-19 cases, composed of four students and nine employees, between last Friday and Monday, with 11 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday and Thursday, included 16 cases.

This is the spring semester’s seventh case report and arrives after the Allegheny County Health Department and state health officials have continued to report high case numbers, though much fewer than in previous weeks. According to hospital data compiled by The New York Times, about 78% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 78% statewide and 76% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 80% capacity and has 40 ICU beds remaining.

Students living on campus finished moving into dorms last week, in line with the COVID-19 Medical Response Office’s shelter-in-place guidance and testing requirements for students.

The CMRO said the rise in employee cases is “notable”, although from its data, none of the cases are related and are from community spread. Shelter in place for students is in place for students until at least Feb. 15.

It also reported the final Quest data from the self-swab tests that all on-campus students were required to take. Out of the 9,819 tests ordered, 90 of the 6,641 processed tests were positive, reflecting a 1.35% prevalence rate. Overall, the CMRO said requiring the tests helped decrease some of the spread of COVID-19 from asymptomatic infection.

The CMRO also said the University is working on a vaccine distribution plan and will provide updates as they become available. It encouraged those who are offered a COVID-19 vaccine to take it and not to wait until Pitt has its own supply of vaccines.

The University has had 941 students and 185 employees test positive since June 26, with 930 students and 171 employees recovered thus far.

There are 11 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, which involves testing several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Out of 256 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Thursday, none were positive, decreasing Pitt’s prevalence rate from 0.34% to 0.26%.

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 need to have a negative COVID-19 test before moving back to campus and 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.

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