As Pitt confronts virus, students share feelings about COVID-19 rules


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The Cathedral of Learning from Schenley Plaza.

By Donata Massimiani, Staff Writer

As Pitt prepares to take on COVID-19 for the third year, students expressed mixed feelings about the current state of the pandemic. However, most feel generally comfortable with the University’s guidelines that were updated in July. 

Pitt’s mask rules will “at a minimum” be in line with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends based on community spread in Allegheny County. If spread is “high” masks are required on campus, but if spread is “medium” or “low” they’re optional. As of Aug. 18, masks are required. 

“Additional restrictions may be imposed by the [COVID-19 Medical Response Office], or other entity designated by the Chancellor, if it determines such protection is needed in certain locations or settings,” reads Pitt’s guidance. “Additionally, all community members are welcome to wear face coverings based on their own comfort levels and needs.

All students, faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have an approved exemption.

Other rules imposed by the University include mandatory routine testing for non-vaccinated students, faculty and staff as well as mandatory testing during fall arrival for all students living in University housing. Students must report positive tests to the University and isolate, according to Nick France, a Pitt spokesperson. 

“Students must inform their campus’ health office of their result,” France said. “That office can determine the length of isolation, based on the latest public health guidance and the patient’s symptom status, as well as if isolation housing is required.”

Grace Lopiccolo, a junior biology major, said she’s planning to wear a mask during class this semester and thinks all students may have to wear masks at some points throughout the semester.

“I think it’s okay that it’s optional, but I have a pretty good feeling that it’ll be back to mandatory because I feel like COVID is definitely going to get bad again,” Lopiccolo said. 

Aside from the possibility of mask requirements, Lopiccolo said she doesn’t think COVID-19 will affect the fall semester much. 

“It didn’t really affect last year too much, at least for me, so I feel like it’ll remain that way,” Lopiccolo said. 

However, some students are hoping the University doesn’t implement mandatory masking. Mia Dektor, a sophomore psychology major, said she’s glad Pitt is allowing students the option to choose if they wear one or not. 

“Whatever the University wants us to do, obviously I will do, but it’s nice that as of right now we can have a choice,” Dektor said. 

She said while she thinks COVID-19 might lead to virtual classes, she’s hoping it doesn’t happen. There was a virtual class option during the 2020-21 school year, and for a few weeks at the beginning of each semester during the 2021-22 academic year. Pitt’s faculty union recently reached a deal with administration which could allow union members to request remote classes and office hours to protect themselves or medically at-risk family members against COVID-19.

“I know new variants come out all the time, but I think Pitt does a really good job at letting us know early enough if we’re going to be online or if we have to wear a mask,” Dektor said. 

Dektor isn’t the only student looking to the fall with optimism. Kiley Hayes, a junior nutrition science major, said she thinks COVID-19 will still impact the semester, but not to the degree it has in the past. She said she’s comfortable with optional masking. 

“When we did it last semester I think it worked well because if you wanted to wear it, you could, and if you were comfortable not doing it, it didn’t matter,” Hayes said. 

Gabriella Policella, a senior marketing major, said she suspects masks will become mandatory if cases begin to rise, but is glad she does not have to wear one for now. 

“I’m excited to be able to be in a classroom without a mask again because I feel like it makes for a more personal and intimate learning experience,” Policella said. 

Policella said she is afraid of cases rising, businesses closing again and experiencing negative mental health affects as a result. However, she’s hopeful that it won’t happen this fall. 

“I don’t think it’s going to affect the school year at all, except for possibly having to wear masks for a little bit, maybe when flu season intersects with COVID,” Policella said.