Advice from Heathcare Advisory Group about safety on campus this fall

Much responsibility has been placed in the hands of the Chancellor’s Healthcare Advisory Group, which is guiding recommendations about health and safety issues on Pitt’s campuses, such as use of personal protective equipment and density of classrooms.

The group of seven experts, along with chair Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences, has already issued extensive guidelines on Shared Spaces and Face Coverings, Personal Protective Equipment, and Personal Hygiene. More guidance is coming on distancing and density; virus monitoring, testing and tracing; safe mobility; and considerations for vulnerable populations. As these are released, they can be found on the website.

Pittwire recently ran a series of questions and answers from members of the group on their expertise, their experiences during the pandemic and unexpected details that have come up for the advisory group’s review. Find those stories here and here.

The answers we found the most interesting were to the question: What would you say to a student or parent worried about health and safety on campus this fall? Their answers could easily apply to returning faculty and staff. Below see the panelists responses, along with their credentials.

Sally Wenzel, chair, Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health We really can get through this. Yes, this is unprecedented and there are risks that didn’t exist at this time last year. Still, if we take modest steps to protect ourselves and others, we can have a safe and productive semester.

Jay Frerotte, assistant vice chancellor for Environmental Health and Safety: Millions of people worldwide seek a university experience with the intent of enriching their lives, enriching their families or enriching others.

Like universities around the globe, Pitt is seeking best practices to support this social experience while minimizing risk as much as practical. But, like any social experience in the midst of this pandemic, there will be risk.

In my opinion, Pitt is seeking to create a campus environment that has no more risk than other social settings in our community.

Anne Newman, chair, Epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health: The Pitt Student Life staff are well trained and dedicated to the health of our students for all health issues and will be keeping a very close eye and ear on campus life.

John V. Williams, Endowed chair in Pediatric Immunology and professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine: All of life entails some risk, and a wise person tries to balance reduction of risk with living a full and normal life. If students practice these simple principles of hand hygiene, masks and social distancing, they can have a wonderful and full college experience with relatively low risk. I’m sending my kids back to their schools this fall with the same advice.

Maggie McDonald, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and International Programs, Health Sciences: Pitt has convened the best experts — some of whom are also working with other institutions facing the same issues — to bring students back to campus as safely as possible while retaining the essence of the campus experience.

A little risk is part of life. Pitt students are smart. We need to give them guidance based on best available evidence and then trust them to find the right balance of keeping themselves safe and enjoying the Pitt experience. 

Kimberly Moses, health care attorney in the Office of University CounselTo mitigate the spread of infection, it will be very important that all members of the campus community take seriously their individual responsibilities to create an environment that protects themselves as well as others. This starts with adhering to University recommendations, exercising discipline and being vigilant.

Mark Roberts, professor and chair, Health Policy and Management, and director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory in the Graduate School of Public HealthThe University of Pittsburgh is committed to balancing students’ educational needs with the safety concerns that we all have about this new disease, and our efforts to prevent and contain its spread. 

— Pittwire