Pitt adds 8 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added eight new COVID-19 cases, composed of seven students and one employee, between last Friday and Monday, with 24 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday and Thursday, included 11 cases.

This is the spring semester’s 13th 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 77% statewide and 73% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 79% capacity and has 45 ICU beds remaining.

The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said it discourages nonessential travel, in accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s lifting of many mitigation strategies about travel restrictions. The office also asks students to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day small this year to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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. For those who are vaccinated, the CMRO said they must continue to be vigilant because the pandemic is still ongoing, many are not vaccinated yet and there is still uncertainty about transmission of COVID-19 after vaccination.

The University has had 999 students and 199 employees test positive since June 26, with 975 students and 196 employees recovered thus far.

There are 24 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. The most recent testing data available from Pitt is for last Wednesday.

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.