Health restrictions, spirits lift as Pitt updates COVID-19 guidelines


Joy Cao | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt students are looking forward to the in-person activities and opportunities that will be available this upcoming year.

By Punya Bhasin, Senior Staff Writer

As more and more people become vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Tom Wolf and Pitt administration are not only lifting their COVID-19 restrictions, but also Pitt students’ spirits.

Lauren Carter, a sophomore forensic psychology major, said with Pitt’s updated COVID-19 guidelines, she is looking forward to the in-person activities and opportunities that will be available this upcoming year.

“I hope the University holds more activities and opportunities for us and I’m looking forward to having them host stuff out on the lawn, getting involved in clubs and just really reaching out and trying to meet new people,” Carter said.

University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said vaccinated students will no longer be required to wear face coverings outdoors, although everyone — regardless of their vaccination status — must wear face coverings inside University buildings. According to Zwick, social distancing is also no longer required.

As the University continues to update its COVID-19 safety protocols, Pitt continues to encourage students and staff to get vaccinated and offers free clinics on campus to provide COVID-19 vaccines.

There were much stricter COVID-19 protocols on campus last year. Students were required to wear masks both indoors and outdoors, weren’t allowed guests inside residence halls and in-person classes and activities were cancelled. More than 1,300 students and 240 employees tested positive for COVID-19 during the year. 

Student Affairs spokesperson Janine Fisher said Pitt has not decided yet on any specific guidelines or capacity limits for student organizations, but Student Affairs is planning to resume in-person activities.

Luis Cantu, a senior philosophy major, said he is “optimistic” about the upcoming academic year and sees the change in mask rules as a sign of returning to normalcy.

“I got the Moderna vaccine so I think I will feel safe returning to campus and going to classes in person,” Cantu said. “I expect things to go back to normal, so I’m pretty optimistic and I don’t have any worries about the upcoming semester.”

Carter said she doesn’t have an issue continuing to wear masks, despite being vaccinated. She said she is willing to wear a mask if others are wearing masks, or if it makes people feel more comfortable.

“If a lot of people in the area are wearing a mask, I’ll wear a mask,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal and I never really had a huge issue with them, and I will wear a mask if it makes people feel comfortable.”

Carter also said she will continue to wear her mask to protect herself and others from unvaccinated people.

“I am worried about the actions of some people but it’s the type of thing where you’ll always have people that won’t do something for the good of others, and there’s no good way to solve it or know whether they’re truly vaccinated or not,” Carter said. “So it’s a type of thing that you have to watch out for your own safety, know yourself and just have good judgment.”

Zwick said the “goal” of the University is to provide an in-person experience, but Pitt’s administration has not reached a decision about the further lifting of guidelines due to changing virus conditions and vaccination distribution.

“With the goal to provide an in-person experience in the fall term, our senior leadership team is carefully reviewing a number of options related to the vaccination of our community,” Zwick said. “We know that students and families are eager for a decision, but changing virus conditions, vaccination rates, and vaccine accessibility and availability worldwide make it difficult to know what to expect for our students, faculty and staff who come from a breadth of situations across the globe.”

Cantu said while he hopes everything is back to normal as soon as possible, he maintains his “recipe” for resilience through interacting with people.

“My recipe to be resilient is to just try to develop friendships that can remedy your lack of in-person interaction, while obviously maintaining COVID precautions, because I think a necessary part of enjoying University life is that social aspect for most people,” Cantu said. 

Carter said she hopes both incoming first-year and current students take time to “slow down” this fall semester, and appreciate the return to in-person activities.

“Just take time to slow down and cherish everything that’s happening around you and stay present and in the moment, because it goes by so quickly,” Carter said. “I felt that my first year of college was taken away from me due to the pandemic and I can’t get that back, so I’m looking forward to appreciating the years of college I still have ahead of me.”