The University of Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh campus moved to an Elevated Risk Posture and activated shelter-in-place protocols effective today, due to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.
An email sent to University students, faculty and staff on Sunday, Nov. 8, announced the changes which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 9.
The decision to change risk postures and begin sheltering in place earlier than planned on the Pittsburgh campus came after the University’s team of medical experts, including the Healthcare Advisory Group and COVID-19 Medical Response Office (CMRO), assessed a significant increase in positive cases among students over the weekend. At least 40 confirmed cases were recorded since Friday’s CMRO case data update, all of which Pitt’s experts say are linked to social gatherings that took place over the Halloween weekend.
Only the Pittsburgh campus is affected by the changes; regional campuses will begin the shelter-in-place period on Thursday, Nov. 12, as originally planned.
“Throughout this unusual fall semester, the safety of our community has been, and will always be, our priority. We may have hoped this shifting landscape would be less complex, but we are well prepared to navigate the days ahead,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd in an email to students and faculty on the Pittsburgh campus.
Here’s what Pittsburgh campus students, faculty and staff need to know about the changes:
Academic activities will continue—and are among the safest activities—while sheltering in place and in an Elevated Risk Posture
In her email, Cudd noted that in-person academic activities such as in-person classes and lab classes are permitted to continue in the Elevated Risk Posture.
“While contact tracing is still underway, the information collected to date suggests that this recent increase in cases is due to social gatherings over Halloween weekend,” Cudd said. “No infections have been traced to classroom activities.”
John V. Williams, director of Pitt’s CMRO, explained the safety of attending in-person academic activities—but not social gatherings—during the shelter-in-place and while the University is in the Elevated Risk Posture.
“Social gatherings have been the main driver of infections. We know from contact tracing that people are not getting infected in classrooms. It’s unmasked social gatherings large and small that are causing the problem,” Williams said.
Thanks to the flexibility and adaptability that the Flex@Pitt teaching and learning model offers, classes—undergraduate and graduate—will not be interrupted by the change in risk posture or shelter-in-place protocols. Pittsburgh campus students can continue to engage in academic activities in person during the shelter-in-place period. The shelter-in-place guidance does not limit in-class or lab experiences, and field and clinical work will also continue uninterrupted. As always, instructors and students have the option to teach and learn in person or remotely.
Students who are not in isolation or quarantine can choose to attend classes in person. Final exams, whether they are scheduled to occur in person or remotely, will take place as planned.
Reminders for sheltering-in-place
On the Pittsburgh campus, shelter-in-place protocols are being activated earlier than planned to mitigate the spread of the virus and help ensure students are ready to travel home at the end of the fall term as safely as possible.
During this period, students should limit close contacts and interact virtually whenever possible. In-person classes will still be permitted, and dining halls will be open for takeout only. Although it may vary by campus, the University will close some public spaces that are higher risk or difficult to monitor during this time. A chart of public spaces on the University’s campus—like the University Library System, campus gyms and recreation spaces, campus dining locations and lounges in residence halls—and their open status during the shelter-in-place period on coronavirus.pitt.edu.
And students should remember: Just because they’re sheltering in place and limiting their close contacts doesn’t mean they can’t socialize with friends. Staying socially engaged is one of the best things one can do right now, especially with the excitement and stress of the end of the term. Check out tips for staying socially engaged while physically distant.
Everyone has a role in keeping their communities and families safe
The shelter in place was recommended to reduce the spread of the virus when students interact with families and loved ones at the end of the term. Students must be extra vigilant now to ensure they do not infect others during the upcoming holidays.
To avoid the serious threat of exponential increases in COVID-19 cases, all Pitt community members—students, faculty and staff—are asked to be especially careful about masking, distancing and hand hygiene.