Pitt adds 7 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday

By Martha Layne, Assistant News Editor

Pitt added seven new COVID-19 cases, composed of seven students and no employees, between last Friday and Monday, with 19 students currently in isolation. The University’s previous case report, covering last Tuesday to Thursday, included 15 cases.

This is the eighth 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 87% of ICU beds in the Pittsburgh area are currently occupied, compared with 82% statewide and 71% nationally. UPMC Shadyside is at 95% capacity and has nine ICU beds remaining.

Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office said while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new interim public health guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, the University’s guidelines have not changed — face masks are required for all individuals at all times when indoors and outdoors.

The CMRO also said there is a limited amount of Moderna vaccines for those who are 18 or older, which will be distributed at the new testing site at the former AT&T storefront on Fifth Avenue in Nordenberg Hall. Appointments are available Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It said students are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible, even if they will not be in the area for their second dose and will need to receive their second dose at a second location. The CMRO also said the “most effective” way to work towards a normal fall semester is for students to get vaccinated.

The University has had 1,390 students and 245 employees test positive since June 26, with 1,371 students and 241 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 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 Hall at various times throughout this week and next 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.