By SUSAN JONES
The Nov. 10 report from the COVID-19 Medical Response Office said 73 students have tested positive on the Oakland campus since the last report on Nov. 6. That brings the total since Nov. 3 at more than 100. The five-day moving average of positive cases per day went from 8.2 to 16.8.
The new cases are the most reported in the biweekly reports since they started in August. There have been 442 cases among students since Aug. 1. Only 22 of those cases were found through surveillance testing; the rest are among students who sought testing after experiencing symptoms. In addition, one more Pitt employee tested positive this week, bringing the total to 28. Six remain in isolation.
There are currently 110 students in isolation. Pitt said in August that the University has 179 isolation beds available, with the ability to add 20 more.
As of Nov. 9, the Oakland campus moved back to the Elevated Risk status and asked students to start sheltering in place five days earlier than originally planned. The campus had moved to Guarded status on Oct. 19.
A message Nov. 7 from Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner said the increase in cases “is not good. We suspect that the recent increase in positive cases on our campus is related, at least in part, to behavior during the Halloween weekend, when some students hosted or attended parties in which individuals did not physically distance or wear face coverings. If this suspicion is correct, we expect the number of positive cases will continue to rise, although, of course, we hope that it will not.”
On the regional campuses, Johnstown had seven new student cases and one employee, and Greensburg reported one new student case.
Statewide, 4,361 additional COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday — a new record — and 62 more people have died. Allegheny County reported 317 new cases on Tuesday — its second-highest, one-day total since the pandemic began in March.
With the move back to Elevated status, dining on the Oakland campus is only available via takeout, and residence hall lounges, recreation rooms and kitchens will be closed. In a message sent to students Oct. 26, the medical response office said sheltering in place means limiting “close contacts and extracurricular activities in order to lower the risk of exposure to the virus.”
The idea is to make sure students are not infected before they go home after classes end on Nov. 20. Most students will leave before Thanksgiving and not return to campus until mid-January. Finals will take place online the week of Nov. 30.
Chris Bonneau, president of the University Senate, told The Pitt News that the current situation is a “perfect storm,” and he wouldn’t be surprised if Pitt eventually moves to High Risk, which would shut down almost all activity on campus. Currently, libraries and the campuswide recreation centers are still open.
“As well as we’ve been doing — we’ve said this from the beginning — we’re one bad night away from having an outbreak,” Bonneau said.
The Graduate Student Organizing Committee this week has encouraged graduate student workers to email Pitt’s administration calling on the University to immediately move to a High Risk posture on the Pittsburgh campus and remain in the High Risk posture through the end of the fall 2020 semester. Find the committee’s email here.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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