Pitt adds 15 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 15 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 11 students and four employees, between last Friday and Monday, with 12 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday and Thursday, included 8 cases.

This is the spring semester’s ninth 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 75% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 78% statewide and 75% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 81% capacity and has 40 ICU beds remaining.

The shelter in place period for students ended Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., the required 10 days after the last on-campus students moved in on Feb. 5. Dining in-person, classes and some common spaces are now open for students in line with the Elevated Risk posture of the University. Despite the lifted shelter in place, students are reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands frequently and keep at least 6 feet of distance when around others.

The CMRO said it does not recommend students socialize with those outside of their pods without masks, and strongly discourages eating with those outside of pods and households.They also encourage students to attend surveillance COVID-19 testing when invited.

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 957 students and 192 employees test positive since June 26, with 945 students and 182 employees recovered thus far.

There are 12 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 Wednesday, two were positive, increasing Pitt’s prevalence rate from 0.20% to 0.29%.

The University implemented a variety of new policies due to the pandemic during the spring semester, though some community members question 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.