By SUSAN JONES
This week, Pitt–Bradford joined Pitt–Johnstown in moving to the Elevated status, after COVID-19 cases increased both on campus and in the surrounding areas.
On Oct. 19, the Bradford campus reported six new positive cases among students since the previous Thursday and others that were probable cases; nine students remain in isolation. The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said in its bi-weekly message on Oct. 23 that, “Contact tracing at Pitt-Bradford has revealed that most of the cases have occurred in clusters, largely related to social activities.”
There are just over 1,300 students enrolled at Bradford. There have been 20 cases among students since Aug. 1; six in the past seven days. The Bradford and Johnstown campuses had been at the less restrictive Guarded status since mid-July.
Moving to Elevated posture means instruction is primarily virtual with some in-person learning. All upcoming in-person student events have been moved to virtual formats, postponed or canceled; off-campus student trips have been canceled; and all student internships and many campus placements have been temporarily paused. Gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors.
In the past two weeks, 23 students have tested positive for COVID-19 on the Johnstown campus, bringing the total since Aug. 1 to 43. As of Oct. 23, there were 13 students in isolation. Two employees also tested positive in the past two weeks. The close contacts of these individuals are currently in quarantine and being monitored by Health Services. Most new cases are among known close contacts. The Johnstown campus has 2,353 students.
On Oct. 14, Pitt–Johnstown President Jem Spectar alerted faculty, staff and students that the campus would be moving to the Elevated Risk posture as of 5 p.m. that day. The COVID-19 Medical Response Office said that social gatherings among athletes on campus have fueled an increase in cases on the Cambria County campus.
"What we've learned there is what we learned repeatedly through the pandemic," John Williams, head of the COVID-19 Medical Response Office said. "People are not getting infected in classrooms, or in the grocery store or in their workplace. The uptick on the Johnstown campus is related to students socializing, in their social groups, and not observing mitigation behaviors. That's what's causing that."
While at Elevated status, the dining halls at both campuses are providing take-out meals for students.
McKean County, where the Bradford campus is located, has seen its coronavirus cases double in the past month, from 48 total as of Sept. 15 to 99 by Oct. 19.
On Oct. 17, Cambria County reported 46 new cases, its highest single-day COVID-19 case increase since the pandemic started. The county’s total number of cases has increased from 527 as of Sept. 15 to 889 by Oct. 19.
Despite a similar surge in Westmoreland County — 1,993 cases as of Sept. 15 to 3,550 by Oct. 19 — the Pitt–Greensburg campus has had only one student test positive in the past two weeks and five overall since Aug. 1. On Oct. 15, Westmoreland County reported 148 new cases, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began. The Greensburg campus has been at Guarded status since in-person classes began on Aug. 24.
Surveillance testing is being done weekly on about 150 students each on the Bradford and Greensburg campuses and more than 350 on the Johnstown campus. Most of the positive cases have come from students who already were experiencing symptoms and sought out a test.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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