Dear Pitt Community,
Though it feels like summer has only begun, Pitt leadership, along with medical and safety experts, are finalizing plans for fall health rules. As that work continues, we write with a note on what to expect for COVID-19 testing in the fall, and why we’re continuing it.
At this point in the pandemic, everyone remains at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 and it is important to remain vigilant in our mitigation measures, including getting tested. A major COVID-19 surge would be very disruptive for the Pitt experience and our mission of education and research for everyone. We have made some changes to our COVID testing procedures and requirements, including moving to a new testing vendor starting in mid-August. Below are details on what will be the same as last year and what will be different.
What stays the same: Symptomatic and close contact testing
The University will continue to offer testing for any students and employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who are a close contact of people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19. Students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should continue to call Student Health Services (SHS) on their campus and arrange to be tested there. Employees who are experiencing symptoms should continue to call MyHealth@Work, or their health care professional. Testing for symptomatic employees will continue to be available on the Pittsburgh campus at the O’Hara Student Center.
The O’Hara Student Center will also have testing available for students and employees who are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. You can simply arrange a time through SHS or MyHealth@Work to be tested at a location on campus or pick up a test kit from campus to test on your own. Regional campuses will provide details regarding testing options on their campuses in the coming weeks.
Fall testing information and hours will be available on coronavirus.pitt.edu.
What is new:
Pitt is moving to a new testing vendor to support a more sustainable, long-term solution for COVID-19 testing in our community. Starting in mid-August, you will no longer need to create an account before being tested on campus; while you will be able to pick up a test on campus, you will no longer be able to have a test kit shipped to your home. If you have a previously ordered, unexpired Quest test at home, you may still return it using the instructions that came with the test. Additional instructions on testing will be available at coronavirus.pitt.edu in the coming weeks.
The medical rationale for mandatory testing this term
We will continue mandatory testing for at least some segments of our unvaccinated population. While everyone is at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19, individuals who are unvaccinated remain among the highest risk population. What do we mean by this?
If you are unvaccinated, you are more likely to:
- Get COVID-19;
- Carry higher amounts of the virus;
- Become seriously sick yourself; and
- Be contagious for longer.
There is much scientific evidence supporting these facts, and a strong medical rationale for routine testing of unvaccinated members of any community. Testing individuals who have received a vaccine exemption is an important component of medical risk reduction for the Pitt community, along with COVID vaccinations and masking guidance.
Nonetheless, we want to be judicious in our testing efforts and design our programs to target groups based on the risk presented. Accordingly, beginning the week of August 14, individuals who have an approved vaccine exemption and live in University housing will be required to participate in weekly testing throughout the fall term. This approach supports risk reduction for all students living in congregate settings.
All other University community members with an approved exemption will be required to test weekly only when the county in which their Pitt campus is located is a county with a CDC COVID-19 Community Level of high. At all other times, such individuals are strongly encouraged to test weekly, especially when CDC Community Level is medium, but they are not required to do so. At any time, regardless of Community Level, medical and safety experts may impose additional testing requirements if it is determined that conditions on campus call for such protection. As a reminder, members of our community who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for severe illness or complications from COVID-19, and additional precautions such as masking may be needed for these individuals, and for people close to them.
Pittsburgh campus – Allegheny County
Bradford campus – McKean County
Greensburg campus – Westmoreland County
Johnstown campus – Cambria County
Titusville campus – Crawford County
Under-vaccinated individuals — meaning those who are not up to date on COVID shots, per CDC guidance — are also at greater risk than those who are up to date. CDC quarantine recommendations are also different for those who are not up to date. Being up to date on your COVID shots provides another layer of protection for our community.
Boosters and initial doses of COVID vaccines can be obtained throughout the year at the Pitt Vaccination & Health Connection HUB @University Pharmacy, previously Pitt CoVax, on the Pittsburgh campus.
Fall arrival testing
We will also be conducting testing as part of students’ arrival back to our campuses at the start of the term. Upon arrival to campus, all students living in University housing will be required to test and will be provided a test kit upon arrival. Additional instructions and details for Fall 2022 Arrival are forthcoming.
Additionally, to maximize a safe return, all students — both on and off campus — are strongly encouraged to take a rapid antigen test within 48 hours before returning to the area. Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are available to order at COVID.gov. If you do test positive, you should not travel.
The measures our students, faculty and staff have taken to date to remain vigilant about community spread have helped to keep us safer, healthier and together on our campuses. We thank you for your continued support and understanding.
The COVID-19 Medical Response Office