Pitt adds 15 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 15 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 14 students and one employee, between last Friday and Monday, with 34 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday to Thursday, included 22 cases.

This is the second case report since Pitt moved to the Guarded Risk posture last Thursday 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 82% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 76% statewide and 70% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 89% capacity and has 21 ICU beds remaining.

The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said the student case count is “higher than we would like.” The CMRO highlighted Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner’s remarks about student gatherings this past weekend, and reminded students that the pandemic is still ongoing. For students who did attend a large gathering over the weekend, the CMRO is offering COVID-19 testing at Posvar Hall on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. There will be no disciplinary actions for students who get tested.

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 1,054 students and 212 employees test positive since June 26, with 1,020 students and 206 employees recovered thus far.

There are 34 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 random testing session on Pitt’s data dashboard is from last Monday, March 8.

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.

Bonner 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.