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Allegheny County sets new daily COVID case record, Pitt starts spring semester virtually

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Julia Zenkevich
/
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County set another new record Thursday for daily positive cases, according to county health officials.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said 654 new infections were reported on the day spanning Dec. 27-28, while 1,701 new infections were reported on the day spanning Dec. 28-29. For Dec. 29-30, the number of new infections was 1,980, Bogen said — a new county record.

Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh’s spring semester will begin remotely on Jan. 10, as COVID-19 case numbers in Allegheny County continue to rise. Pitt has implemented a campus-wide, shelter-in-place program for students who return to campus in the new year.

Most classes will also be virtual until at least Jan. 26, and students cannot return to in-person classes or student housing unless they have a negative COVID-19 test. Pitt has a vaccine mandate, and it will require unvaccinated people with an approved exemption to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test each week.

The county health department announcement about the sharp increase in new cases comes less than a week after the county set a new record for daily COVID cases. So far this week, Bogen said about 17,000 people were tested at the county-affiliated Curative sites.

“I again ask everyone to take this seriously and do their part to slow the spread of this virus. Get your vaccines or your booster vaccine,” Bogen said. “Wear a properly fitting, quality mask and consider double-masking by wearing a surgical mask covered by a cloth mask, two surgical masks, or a KN95 mask.”

At Pitt, in-person classes are scheduled to begin on Jan. 27, though program deans have the option to allow some classes to meet in person before then.

During the shelter-in-place period, students “should only leave their rooms or apartments to attend classes, labs or clinicals in person (if in-person classes were approved by the dean of your school); pick up food; exercise safely; study in the library; work when necessary; and shop for essentials and medical needs,” Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office wrote in instructions released to students Thursday.

In an email to Pittsburgh campus students and faculty, provost and senior vice chancellor Ann E. Cudd said the omicron variant’s arrival in the city “has caused us to adjust our move-in procedure for students living on campus.”

Pitt announced a “cohort-based” arrival system starting Jan. 8 for students living in university residence halls on any of the school’s five campuses.

“The purpose of the staggered move-in is to allow us to monitor the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in university housing and to decide if additional move-in delays are necessary,” Pitt Dean of Students Carla M. Panzella wrote in an email to students.

While only unvaccinated students must submit a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to university housing, all students will be required to submit a test after arriving on campus. Students who test positive will be asked to isolate.

“As we continue to monitor the spread of the new variant and its severity in our community, we will remain vigilant and adjust plans when necessary for the safety and health of our campuses,” Cudd said.

Updated: December 30, 2021 at 4:13 PM EST
Updated to reflect new county record and additional information regarding Pitt.
Updated: December 30, 2021 at 3:13 PM EST
Updated to include number of new county COVID cases.