Phased return of students to campus will include testing, quarantining


Students will begin to return to on-campus housing in Oakland on Aug. 11 in groups of 1,500, but don’t expect to see hoards of teenagers on the streets right away.

Each student, even those living off campus, is being asked to quarantine for 14 days before being set loose in Pittsburgh. Those in on-campus housing should quarantine for a week before arriving in Oakland and then for another week in their dorm rooms, according to an email sent to students on July 20 from the COVID-19 Medical Response Office. Students in off-campus housing can choose to shelter in place at their permanent residence or in their Oakland accommodations.

This staggered approach to student arrival means the process will last until Aug. 31, if no pauses are necessary because of changing conditions. The phased arrival approach will mean some students will be able to attend in-person classes earlier than others, and some will have to start classes remotely in their permanent residence before coming to campus.

“I think it is the correct approach to stagger the return of students to campus as much as possible, but I know that there are concerns about the lateness of when some students could potentially return,” said Eric Macadangdang, Student Government Board president. Depending on what direction the pandemic takes in this region in the next few weeks, Macadangdang said he hopes “students heavily consider the option of opting for remote learning and an online semester.”

The return-to-campus plan for students was developed by the COVID-19 Medical Response Office in consultation with the Healthcare Advisory Group

“I am concerned that the quarantine is going to rely on the honor system and is not enforceable in any way,” said Chris Bonneau, University Senate president and political science professor. “Given the increasing number of positive cases with this pandemic both here and across the country, it is imperative that our testing system can test enough people — not just those who are symptomatic — and the results for all those tested be available quickly.”

Macadangdang also has concerns about students adhering to the quarantine rules. “I can remain as optimistic as possible and expect every student to understand the public health implications of quarantining, but I think it would naive to think no students will try to socialize after months of isolation.”

Kevin Zwick, a University spokesman, told the Pitt News that the University will not track whether or not students have completed their 14-day shelter-in-place period.

During the move-in time, the health of all students will be monitored, the email to students said. Up to 400 students per day will be selected for testing to track the prevalence of the virus on campus before in-person classes begin. In addition, testing will be available for anyone who has symptoms, with results coming in 24 hours.

The University has prepared isolation facilities at each Pitt campus for students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive.

The Medical Response Office also will be issuing guidance on:

  • Sheltering-in-place guidelines across all five Pitt campuses.

  • General travel recommendations for students to travel to campus safely to avoid exposure.

  • The University’s approach to close contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

Andy Stephany, Staff Council president, said, “I know every decision about returning to campus has been given serious consideration with the health and safety of our community (staff, students, and faculty) as top priority. These plans require a dedicated commitment from each member of the community to be successful, and I have full trust in the medical professionals who comprise the University’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office and the Healthcare Advisory Group to offer appropriate guidance to make this decision.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.