Pitt reduces isolation housing capacity to 25 beds


TPN File Photo

The Cathedral of Learning.

By Alexandra Ross, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt has reduced its isolation housing from 100 beds to 25 beds this semester, according to a University spokesperson. 

“Given the high rate of vaccinations on our campus and the more mild cases we are now seeing as a result, we’re glad to see that most people are able to isolate in place at this stage in the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

Students expressed mixed reactions to the 75% reduction in isolation housing, with some saying 25 beds is not enough and others saying Pitt is ready for the change. The spokesperson said Pitt’s care team evaluates each COVID-19 case on an individual basis, including those in off-campus students, and that most people are able to isolate in their residence at this time. 

Pitt’s isolation housing is only used for COVID-19 cases, not for other contagious diseases such as monkeypox. Pitt reported its first monkeypox case last month.

According to the COVID-19 Medical Response Office, 96% of students, faculty and staff across all Pitt campuses are vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The spokesperson said Pitt already reduced COVID-19 isolation housing in the spring 2022 semester from about 300 beds to about 100 beds. COVID-19 cases remained mild and University isolation housing never reached 50% capacity throughout that semester, according to the spokesperson, who said this contributed to the decision to reduce the number of isolation beds again. 

“Based on that [spring 2022] experience, and in consultation with our health and safety experts, we were comfortable further reducing the number of beds set aside for isolation housing at the start of this term,” the spokesperson said.    

To first-year business major Bronwyn McCoy, the new number of isolation beds available “doesn’t really make sense” and “should definitely be better,” especially given the number of students on campus. 

“I feel like 25 is not a great number just with how big of a school this is,” McCoy said. “I mean, it’s a huge school.”

Pitt has not released official enrollment numbers for the 2022-23 academic year, but said in a July media release that more than 8,000 students would move into University housing in August 2022. As of Aug. 30, the spokesperson said 95% of housing units were available.

Pitt did not address any reductions in isolation housing in its COVID-19 updates emailed to the Pitt community. In an Aug. 18 update, the CMRO said Pitt community members exposed to COVID-19 would no longer need to quarantine after an update in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. The August update did not reveal any changes to isolation housing or policy. 

The CMRO’s frequently asked questions on isolation and precautions, updated Aug. 16, says people who test positive for COVID-19 or are showing COVID-19 symptoms “should follow guidance from contact tracers or Student Health Services on where to isolate.” The website says to isolate for at least five full days and does not provide information about on-campus isolation housing options. 

Cassidy Jackson, a first-year biology major, said she felt it is a good time in the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce isolation housing. 

“With COVID cases going down and the vaccines… I think that [reducing the isolation housing capacity] makes sense,” Jackson said. 

Still, she said she is glad to see a limited number of isolation housing units still available to students. 

“I feel like it’s good that they still have some,” Jackson said. “That’s definitely necessary.”