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Editorial: Welcome Back! We Already Doubled Our COVID Cases

by Madison Jarnot

Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash.

Isn’t it great to be back to in-person instruction? 

No more online exams and asynchronous lectures. No more attending school in your pajamas or eating when you have a class at lunchtime. Instead, we get to wear masks 24/7, commute to class during weekly thunderstorms, and spread COVID-19 like wildfire.

According to the University’s CMRO updates, we had nine positive cases of COVID-19 on our campus last year. Six cases were students, and three were faculty members. 

We’ve had 21 students test positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 23. Yes, this is more than double the number of student and faculty cases we had on campus during the entire 2020-2021 academic year. And midterms are still three weeks away.

What are we doing here?

19 of these 21 cases were in unvaccinated students. As I discussed in Spring 2021, containing the spread of COVID-19 on campus would be nearly impossible unless at least 80% of our campus community was vaccinated. Only 72% of our students are vaccinated as per the CMRO’s last update—the lowest percentage of any of Pitt’s campuses.

The University knows our case numbers will rise as long as in-person instruction continues. 

This is why the Center for Teaching and Learning recommended that professors record all class sessions “unless it is pedagogically inappropriate” and reminded professors to accommodate all students who need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19. It’s also why the CMRO recently released “courtesy rules for classrooms,” such as stepping outside the room to cough or leaving class entirely if you have a “persistent cough.”

The administration knows students are infecting each other, as well as faculty and staff, in the classroom. As we discovered last year, they have more than enough funding and resources to accommodate remote instruction. 

I get it. No one actually likes being stuck at home all day. I learned that last year just like everyone else. However, I can’t pretend that quarantine is worse than losing the lives of Pitt-Greensburg students, faculty, and staff.

Remote instruction isn’t ideal; professors are undoubtedly doing more prep work for online-only courses. But I have to ask—is less computer work worth risking your health?

I know some students can struggle to focus and stay motivated when they’re attending class remotely. But are the possible academic effects really so severe that we should risk our safety to avoid them? Is our university truly that unwilling to accommodate these students and help them overcome these challenges?

How many more students will be sick by midterms?

Other stories from volume 15, issue 1:
Faculty Votes on Union; Election Ends Oct. 12
Pitt Updates Pandemic Rules and Guidelines
New Life Sciences Building Breaks Ground
Pitt-Greensburg Searches for 8 New Faculty
Campus Close-Up: How Do You Feel About Pitt’s COVID Policies?
Robertshaw Wins 2021 Hall Olympics
Main Street Sweets Tantalizes Greensburg’s Taste Buds
Who You Gonna Call?
“AEW: All Out” Changes the Wrestling Game
Play Your Heart Out: “WRC10” Review
Streaming Service Shows Struck Success at 2021 Emmy Awards

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