Pitt adds 14 COVID-19 cases since Tuesday

By Rebecca Johnson, News Editor

Pitt added 14 new COVID-19 cases, composed of nine students and five employees, between Tuesday and Thursday, with 21 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Friday to Monday, included eight cases.

This is the spring semester’s 14th case report and arrives as Pitt continues to operate in the Elevated Risk posture, allowing for some in-person dining and classes as well as open common spaces. Pitt will move into the Guarded Risk posture next Thursday, which permits most activities to be in person with virtual options and limited restrictions.

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 University has had 1,008 students and 204 employees test positive since June 26, with 987 students and 196 employees recovered thus far.

There are 21 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 about 300 isolation beds.

Pitt implemented a systematic, random testing strategy, which involves testing several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays inside Posvar Hall. Out of 324 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Monday, one was positive, decreasing Pitt’s spring prevalence rate from 0.39% to 0.35%. The Student Health Center also now has the capacity to test 300 symptomatic students per day.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said in a Friday evening email that infection rates “continue to remain low.” It said while five new faculty or staff cases are “notable,” contact tracing hasn’t indicated work-related transmission yet.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has approved Pitt as a vaccine provider, but Pitt officials remain unsure about when they will receive doses to distribute. The CMRO said it’s important to fill out the vaccine survey Pitt sent late last month so Pitt is prepared to make appointments if it receives a supply.

The University also 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 moved into dorms in four cohorts, beginning in late January and continuing into early February. Students needed a negative COVID-19 test before moving back on campus. Faculty and staff also have access to mail-in tests if they meet certain criteria.

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 also planned testing of students to monitor the virus’ 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.