The Pitt News

Pitt’s COVID-19 response, explained

This story was last updated Sept. 11 at 12:15 p.m.

Pitt is in the process of implementing its reopening plans 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]


  • The fall semester will begin early on Aug. 19 with online-only classes, and faculty members can apply to transition to in-person learning where a “definable benefit” exists while Pitt remains in the Elevated Risk posture. The University previously said classes would transition to in person on Aug. 24, but officials pushed back a possible start date to Sept. 14, after being non-committal about a specific or estimated date for when fall classes will move from online only to in person.
  • There will be no day off for Labor Day on Sept. 7.
  • 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.
  • The University will introduce the new [email protected] teaching model, 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, students will not be required to return to campus if they do not feel safe doing so.
  • Faculty are not required to be physically present in the classroom, 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.
  • Some classes will move to new classrooms, in an effort to promote social distancing. Additional time will also be added between classes to allow for disinfection of classroom spaces.
  • Administrators said classes would change in the following ways, when classes move in person:
    • 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


  • Pitt has said it will provide faculty, staff and students on all campuses with at least one University-branded face covering.
  • The University has imposed strict penalties for health guidelines violations, as severe as suspension or dismissal.
  • Students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call the Student Health Service at 412-383-1800 to arrange for testing. There will be no charge to students for any test obtained through the University.
  • On June 26, Pitt began to publish a list of community members who have tested positive for COVID-19 and been in Oakland in the last 14 days.
  • Pitt has set aside 179 isolation beds for students who have either a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, with the ability to add 20 more. These students will receive care from a dedicated team, who will coordinate food, medical care, and other needs.

Reopening system

  • Pitt is operating a three-tiered reopening system, which closely mirrors Pennsylvania’s red-yellow-green reopening phases, providing 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.
  • A change in reopening posture will be communicated by an all-campus email, with “every attempt” made to provide at least 72-hours notice before a change.

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.”


Move-in and housing

  • Students will move into on-campus housing in 1,500 increments throughout August, with the first arrivals on Aug. 11. They will arrive over a two-day period, with the following two days reserved for select students to be tested for COVID-19 and their results to be analyzed. The process will then repeat itself for further students, though the University has said plans may be altered if on-campus conditions are not considered safe for students.
  • All students returning to Oakland are asked to shelter-in-place for seven days before and after arriving, though officials have said that Pitt will not track whether or not students have completed the shelter-in-place.
  • Pitt will lease about $22 million in rooms across three hotels to house a “significant portion” of first-year students. The University 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. Shuttle routes will also be updated to provide service to these locations.

Committees, advisory groups and offices

  • The chancellor’s Healthcare Advisory Group — chaired by Anantha Shekhar, the senior vice chancellor for health sciences — is charged with advising the chancellor on health-related matters and when to switch between different levels of the three-tiered fall reopening system.
  • The COVID-19 Medical Response Office will oversee testing, run contact tracing, manage reporting procedures and create isolation and quarantine protocols.
  • A resilience steering committee with students, faculty and administrators will coordinate the fall response across the University.

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Pitt’s COVID-19 response, explained