Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt moved postures — from Elevated to Guarded risk — early Thursday morning. In the Guarded posture, among other things, students have the option to attend most of their classes in person, and shared spaces are opened with virus mitigation precautions still in place.
Given the uncertainty around emerging COVID-19 variants, and the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday — notorious for drinking and partying — this shift in postures is both concerning and, frankly, unnecessary.
In terms of keeping the COVID-19 spread under control on campus, Pitt is faring well so far this semester. Eleven students tested positive between last Friday to this past Tuesday, and new positive students have hovered around 10-15 per case report for most of the semester. Pitt fared well last semester, typically reporting between 10 and 20 student cases per case report. That is, up until it moved to Guarded risk on Oct. 19. By the middle of November, case numbers were hovering around the 40s and 50s.
When Pitt moved into Guarded risk in October, faculty and student leaders expressed concern. Student Government Board president Eric Macadangdang stated specifically that he was worried about such a move so close to Halloween — a holiday notorious for student parties. And while there’s no way to be sure, the spike in student cases seemed to begin after the Halloween holiday. Like Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day — which is on Wednesday — is a holiday notorious for partying. If Pitt is, in fact, so adamant about moving into Guarded risk, the administration could have at least waited until after the holiday to send the message that students could begin to socialize more, and enjoy more campus activities.
Not only does the shift in postures send a concerning message to students, but if cases do increase, then this means the virus has a higher presence on campus. A majority of students probably aren’t going to go to a basement party in South Oakland for the holiday, but the students who do attend these parties may spread COVID-19 to the responsible students — including their roommates or students in other shared campus spaces.
There are also new, more concerning COVID-19 variants gaining prevalence in the United States. Many of the variants are far more contagious, and scientists are finding evidence that some are also more vaccine resistant. This raises major concerns about viral spread on campus.
The semester is more than halfway over at this point. Most professors don’t seem especially interested in transitioning into the classroom, and as students, we’re tired and already used to the routine of Zooming from home. The only thing the shift in postures really does is send the message that it’s OK for students to let their guards down. Things are finally looking up in the United States. Maybe Pitt will successfully shift postures without seeing a spike in cases. But it’s a big maybe. And it’s just not worth the risk.