The Pitt News

Pitt’s COVID-19 response, explained

This story was last updated July 10 at noon.

Pitt is in the process of releasing its plan for the fall semester, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Consult this explainer for the latest information about what the plans are and how they will affect you. If you have a question about Pitt’s COVID-19 response, email [email protected].

[Read: Full COVID-19 coverage]

Academic calendar

The fall semester will begin early on Aug. 19 with three days of remote classes, before moving in person on Aug. 24. There will be no day off for Labor Day on Sept. 7.

In-person classes will end on Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving break. Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving, instead finishing classes remotely through the end of the fall semester on Dec. 5.

[email protected]

The University will introduce a new teaching model called [email protected], which will allow students to attend class “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously.” This will work by installing new technology, such as cameras and microphones, in classrooms across campus. Since students will be able to access classes remotely, officials said students will not be required to return to campus if they do not feel safe doing so.

Faculty are also not required to be physically present in the classroom, officials said, but faculty members are required to maintain a “classroom experience” for students. In the event that faculty members cannot come to campus, graduate or undergraduate teaching assistants, faculty colleagues or staff members may be utilized in their stead to facilitate classroom interaction.

Changes to class size, location

Pitt officials said some classes would be moved to new classrooms, in an effort to promote social distancing. They also originally said an extra five minutes would be added between classes to allow for disinfection of classroom spaces, which is not in the final plan, but is subject to change.

Administrators said classes would change in the following ways:

  • For courses with less than 60 students, lectures will be in person
  • For courses with between 60 and 250 students, students will be split into smaller groups and assigned days to come to lecture in person
  • For courses larger than 250 students, lectures will be remote-only, but recitations will be in person

Reopening system

Pitt has established a three-tiered reopening system to guide the University through the pandemic. The three postures, which closely mirror Pennsylvania’s red-yellow-green reopening phases, provide common operating standards to plan for safe operations during the pandemic.

Pitt’s Emergency Operations Center, in collaboration with the chancellor’s Healthcare Advisory Group, will monitor different criteria and recommend whether the University should switch between postures.

Remote work

Faculty and staff are asked to work remotely for the duration of the pandemic whenever possible, except when their presence on campus is “needed to support students, research and other operations.”


On June 26, Pitt began publishing a list of Pitt community members who have tested positive for COVID-19 and been in Oakland in the last 14 days.

There is no final word on how many masks Pitt will provide to students and employees. Officials said in mid-May they were considering two masks for students and one for employees. A senior official said on June 15 that “many thousands” of masks are on order for students, but the number to be distributed to each student has not been determined yet.

Kenyon Bonner, the vice provost and dean of students, said on June 18 that he has been working with students on a contract for community members to sign, indicating they will hold to the restrictions. He added that the University’s approach focuses on social norms and creating an environment where students encourage each other to comply.


Pitt will lease about $22 million in rooms across multiple hotels to house a “significant portion” of first-year students, officials announced on June 25. Pitt said the hotel housing will operate in the same way as on-campus housing, with 24-hour security, as well as resident assistant and resident director staff to provide supervision and support. University shuttle routes will also be updated to provide service to these locations.

Steve Anderson, the associate dean of students and director of the Office of Residence Life, said on June 18 that the University will accommodate all students who are guaranteed housing and will send out housing assignments during the second week of July.

In the event that students become sick in the fall, Anderson said the University has developed quarantine locations to ensure that students have access to all the resources they need, while also protecting healthy students from the virus.


Anderson said similar capacity will be put in place for campus dining locations, with physical distancing to be implemented at the two on-campus dining halls, Market Central and The Perch.

Changes coming to the dining halls include a different layout for food and utensils to mitigate heavy traffic, as well as additional to-go options. Anderson said more details about dining will be released about mid-July.

Student activities

Pitt’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life announced that FSL 101 classes, which are mandatory for all students who wish to participate in recruitment, will be held online.

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper
Pitt’s COVID-19 response, explained