July 25, 2020

Dear Students:

Earlier this week, we announced that all University of Pittsburgh students—including students living off campus—must shelter in place for 14 days before attending in-person classes. This means that students should stay within their residences and limit contacts in order to lower the risk of exposure to the virus.

This strategy, while inconvenient for participating individuals and families, is highly effective at reducing the community spread of the novel coronavirus. In this update, we introduce the University’s sheltering-in-place protocols and offer advice on transitioning to campus. Remember, the most effective measures to reduce virus spread are face coverings, good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

We also know—and COVID-19 has reminded us well—that life can be unpredictable. If you cannot follow all of our shelter-in-place protocols, please stick to what is possible. And, if you have to work or be around others, aim to maintain six feet of physical distance between you and others, wear a face covering and wash your hands often.

If you plan to live on campus, you must shelter in place for seven days at your permanent residence, travel safely and then shelter in place for seven more days in University housing. More guidance on safe travel will be shared next week.

While sheltering in place at your permanent residence, you should:

  • Only leave the house for medicines, food or emergency situations.
  • Log your symptoms and exposure daily via a free, online screening tool, which our office will share in a later update.   
  • Modify your exercise routines by maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet, when possible, or by wearing a face covering when 6 feet of separation is unlikely.      
  • Wear a face covering and maintain a safe physical distance around any household member who is not sheltering in place.
  • Eat separately if members of your household are unable or unwilling to shelter in place.

If you plan to live off campus, you must follow these same shelter-in-place protocols for 14 days—and through any necessary moves or housing changes—before you can attend an in-person class at Pitt.   

If you have COVID-19 symptoms—or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or an active diagnosis—you must be tested and cleared by your local health care provider before moving into on-campus housing or attending an in-person class. More details about testing will be shared next week.

If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or experienced symptoms of infection, you must still follow all shelter-in-place protocols, since the science around immunity and reinfection as it relates to this virus remains inconclusive.

If you are living in University housing, you must shelter in place for seven more days following your arrival to campus. During this period, you will join a social household—what we’re calling a pod—to help make this transition easier.

Members of an on-campus pod live around one another and share bathroom facilities. Much like a family household, members of a pod can forgo some physical distancing restrictions. Most pods will have a small number of students (typically 4-6) who will move in at the same time; therefore, they can begin and end the second seven-day shelter-in-place requirement together.        

If you live off campus, your pod consists of the permanent members within your off-campus residence. Ideally, all members of your pod should join you in sheltering in place for 14 days before your first in-person class on campus.

Shortly after moving in, you should be able to relax certain shelter-in-place restrictions within your on-campus pod. For instance, you can expect to:   

  • Forgo face coverings when interacting with pod members within your residence.
  • Enjoy a meal alongside members of your pod within your residence (details on the University’s expanded Dining Services options will be hitting inboxes next week) or outdoors in a safe, public dining setting.
  • Exercise while maintaining 6 feet of physical distance between you and others or while wearing a face covering if close contact with others is likely.

During the seven-day shelter-in-place period, we advise against taking public transportation and any recreational travel. We will also ask you to log your symptoms and exposure daily using a free, online screening tool.

It’s important to note that, due to our phased arrival approach, on-campus pods will finish sheltering in place (a period we are calling “pod week”) at different times. The infection risk on your campus—along with other factors—will help determine what protocols do and do not extend beyond your pod’s shelter-in-place period, and we encourage you to continue checking coronavirus.pitt.edu for the latest information and guidance.

We know you’re concerned about compliance with shelter-in-place guidance and the health rules. Next week, we will share more details regarding compliance, a Community Compact developed by student leaders and expansions in the student Code of Conduct.

If you are uncomfortable with the University’s shelter-in-place protocols or the thought of being on campus during the pandemic, please remember that you have a choice. You are not required to attend in-person classes and can complete your courses remotely and from a setting of your choosing.

Next week, the University will be emailing you a questionnaire to learn which mode of learning—in person or remote—you prefer.

Until then, please take care.

Drs. John Williams and Chris O’Donnell 
with the University of Pittsburgh’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office