Pitt will move into the Guarded Risk posture next Thursday at 7 a.m., the University announced in a Friday morning email.
This lowest-level posture allows for most activities to occur in person with virtual options and limited restrictions. In the Guarded Risk phase, shared spaces are opened and in-person classes are permitted, except for large lectures. Pitt shifted to its middle-level Elevated Risk posture in mid-February, following the end of a campus-wide 10-day shelter in place at the beginning of the semester.
Pitt said in the email that it based this decision on recommendations from the Emergency Operations Center and the Healthcare Advisory Group. It added that ultimately moving to the Guarded phase is “dependent on the continuation of low, stable case numbers and strong compliance with health and safety rules next week.”
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. 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.
Pitt also said in the email that students should continue to practice proper COVID-19 mitigation behaviors in the Guarded phase, such as wearing masks, social distancing, limiting close contacts and sanitizing hands frequently.
Both student and faculty government leaders said while Pitt had data to back up its decision, community members must continue to follow COVID-19 rules to keep campus safe.
Eric Macadangdang, the president of Student Government Board, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the move. He said the University “very thoughtfully” came to this decision based on data, but students must remain “vigilant” and “attentive” to mitigation rules.
“With or without any posture changes, I always remain cautious and concerned about the well-being of students,” Macadangdang said. “There’s no doubt that what occurs, a lot of it relies on good behavior and good compliance and strong leadership and good decisions.”
Chris Bonneau, the president of the University Senate, also commended the shift amid falling coronavirus case numbers. But he added that the Pitt community must continue to follow mitigation rules.
“The numbers are heading in the right direction and with warmer weather and readily available vaccines on the horizon, the data support this decision,” Bonneau said. “However, while the end is near, we all need to keep up our masking, hygiene and distancing to ensure we don’t have another spike.”