Pitt adds 17 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 17 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 11 students and six employees, between last Friday and Monday, with 19 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday to Thursday, included 14 cases.

This is the spring semester’s 15th 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 80% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 76% statewide and 71% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 88% capacity and has 24 ICU beds remaining.

The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said while the University plans to move to the Guarded Risk posture on Thursday, it is not an excuse to relax on COVID-19 safety procedures. Indoor events will be at 15% capacity and outdoor events at 20%. Signs for shared spaces will indicate occupancy limits. The CMRO said with the expected warm weather for this week, students need to remember to wear their face coverings, remain 6 feet apart from others and practice frequent hand-washing.

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 1,019 students and 210 employees test positive since June 26, with 1,000 students and 200 employees recovered thus far.

There are 19 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 251 students without COVID-19 symptoms randomly tested on Wednesday, one was positive, not changing Pitt’s prevalence rate of 0.35%.

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.