Pitt adds 25 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added 25 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 23 students and two employees, between last Friday and Monday, with 65 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday to Thursday, included 50 cases.

This is the fourth case report since Pitt moved to the Elevated Risk posture and began a shelter-in-place, and arrives after the Allegheny County Health Department and state health officials have continued to report high case numbers. According to hospital data compiled by The New York Times, about 81% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 79% statewide and 70% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 88% capacity and has 24 ICU beds remaining.

The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said students can be tested at the Posvar Hall testing site without making an appointment and without being asked questions. This testing site is open Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The office said Pitt will cover the cost of one Quest at-home COVID-19 test for students who want to test themselves after leaving campus at the end of the semester. The CMRO will release more details about this in its Friday report.

The CMRO still encouraged those who are offered a COVID-19 vaccine to take it and not to wait until Pitt has more vaccines. All Pennsylvania residents over 16 are now eligible for the vaccine. For those who are vaccinated, the CMRO said they must remain 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 CMRO also said Pitt has temporarily stopped distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, following guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after six out of more than 6 million vaccinated people were observed to have an extremely rare blood clotting disorder.

The University has had 1,331 students and 238 employees test positive since June 26, with 1,266 students and 227 employees recovered thus far.

There are 65 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 has stopped its systematic, random testing strategy, which involved testing several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Instead, students can utilize walk-up testing at Posvar at various times throughout the week.

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 needed to have a negative COVID-19 test before moving back to campus and were encouraged to shelter in place at least seven days before moving in. Once on campus, students were required to shelter in place again for at least 10 days or until the CMRO announced that it was safe to move about campus. Students could attend classes during this time. Pitt has 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, 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.