Pitt adds 31 COVID-19 cases since Tuesday, offers new testing times

By Rebecca Johnson, News Editor

Pitt added 31 new COVID-19 cases, composed of 27 students and four employees, between Tuesday and Thursday, with 71 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Friday to Monday, included 25 cases.

This is the fifth case report since Pitt moved back to the middle Elevated Risk posture and enacted a shelter-in-place. These stricter measures followed a “consistent increase” in positive cases among students and the detection of the variant first found in the U.K., B.1.1.7, on campus.

The CMRO said in a Friday evening email that while the case count is decreasing, the five-day moving average increased to eight cases per day and the positivity rate for asymptomatic testing was 4.3% this week. It said both of these numbers are “higher than desired” and urged students to follow proper mitigation procedures and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The decline in cases seems to indicate that our mitigation measures are working but we need to remain vigilant,” the email said. “Please continue to wear a face covering at all times, keep your distance, don’t gather in groups and maintain hand hygiene.”

Pitt is offering no-questions-asked testing for any asymptomatic student who wants one at Posvar Hall via a partnership with Quest Diagnostics. Students can schedule an appointment on PittSwab Scheduler. Faculty and staff can order an at-home test through Quest. Pitt is also offering every student one at-home test through Quest prior to move-out. Students can order these starting Friday.

Testing Hours at Posvar Hall for this weekend and next week include:

  • Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon
  • Monday, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The shelter-in-place order will remain in effect until the CMRO announces that it has been lifted. During this period, the CMRO said students should only leave their rooms to “attend classes, labs or clinicals in person, pick up food, exercise safely, study in the library, work when necessary and shop for essentials and medical needs.” The CMRO also said for students planning to interact with family members during in-person commencement ceremonies, it is “essential” they shelter in place to minimize virus spread.

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 University has had 1,358 students and 242 employees test positive since June 26, with 1,287 students and 232 employees recovered thus far.

There are 71 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.

The University is planning for on-campus, in-person instruction for the majority of classes as well as “the full range” of on-campus living and activities for the fall semester. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said these plans depend on continued availability of the vaccine across the country, and that Pitt doesn’t anticipate a requirement that the incoming class have the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pitt implemented a systematic, random testing strategy, which involves testing several hundred students each week on Mondays and Wednesdays inside Posvar Hall. Pitt has since discontinued this surveillance testing and replaced it with walk-in, no-questions-asked testing at the same location.

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.

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