Safety will be primary concern in return to campus, DeJong says


A Staff Town Hall on June 15 on returning to campus covered a wide variety of issues — from safety to commuting to child care and flexible work arrangements — that were of great interest to the more than 1,500 people who were listening on Zoom and YouTube (view it here).

Staff Council President Andy Stephany moderated the town hall, which also included panelists David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations; Mark Burdsall, assistant vice chancellor of Human Resources; Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management; and Kevin Sheehy, assistant vice chancellor of Business and Auxiliary Services.

“All of you have been critical for maintaining our operations and doing so at a really high level and I could not be prouder of our collective efforts,” DeJong said. “In particular, all the planning and all the responses that we've had and outcomes, I would put them up against those that any other organization has experienced, either among our higher ed peers or really anyone.”

While acknowledging the work of those who have remained on campus throughout the pandemic, DeJong said it was time to plan for those who will return this summer.

“During this entire time, a critical contributor to our success has been our overarching concern with the health and safety of our students, our faculty and our staff, and I can tell you as we pivot that overarching concern will remain in place,” he said.

The return will start in July and be gradual and vary on a unit by unit and individual level. DeJong and other spent part of the town hall discussing the new interim flexible work policy, which you can read about in a separate University Times story. DeJong expects this summer’s transition will create many hybrid work schedules where some of the time is spent working at home and the rest of the time in person.

Other areas of discussion at the town hall included:

Safety training and health rules

All staff returning back to campus will be asked to complete safety training, if they haven’t already done so. Those trainings are accessible now.

Those on campus also will be asked to comply with all health rules currently in place, such as wearing masks indoors. Even though the state of Pennsylvania is lifting its mask mandate on June 28, Pitt expects to extend its rule past that date.

All Pitt health standards and guidelines still apply, including washing hands and wearing face coverings inside.

Building access

For now, members of the Pitt community will still need to swipe into buildings and the concierges will still be on duty at least through the summer. You can enter any building that you could before the pandemic, but you'll need your Pitt ID to do so. Guest are still required to fill out forms to enter.

Cleaning and HVAC

Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols remain in place, along with proper air handling and filtration. More than 550 hand sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the campus.

Only CDC-approved products are being used for cleaning, Bernotas said, and a deep clean has been done on all University buildings, including cleaning vertical and horizontal surfaces and all desks and chairs. Each classroom is stocked daily with disinfectant and wipes.

The cleaning protocols also apply to leased spaces, including UPMC buildings.

Bernotas said that common areas such as elevator lobbies, major corridors and building are maintained by the facilities management staff, but individual workspaces are the responsibility of each person and should be wiping that down daily. Departments are responsible for those supplies for their staff.

Indoor air quality continues to be a priority, and Pitt is following CDC guidelines that called for the increase in volume of outdoor air being used inside buildings. All HVAC systems on all Pitt’s campuses have been evaluated and those units that use recirculating air have been modified to intake the maximum amount of outdoor fresh air, Bernotas said. A new HVAC system in the Commons Room of the Cathedral of Learning made it possible to open that space in the spring. Find out more about HVAC standards on the Facilities Management website.

About 30 spaces on campus have no access to outside air and have more than one occupant. Those rooms will not be used for now.

Anyone with concerns about health and safety, can report problems through the expanded Pitt Concern Connection, which can be accessed 24/7 by texting 412-903-3456, calling 800-468-5768 or completing an online form.

Space considerations

Many spaces have returned to pre-COVID configurations, restrooms and elevators are the exception.

Restrooms are still modified to promote physical distancing. Elevator capacity is still limited and signs are out to promote this.

Plexiglass barriers are still available if a unit requests them, Bernotas said. Pitt’s Healthcare Advisory Group continues to review new CDC guidance for physical distancing within higher education institutions, he said.

Although physical distancing is not required as this time, effective June 7, many staff and faculty aren’t comfortable with tight office spaces and may resort to a rotating cohort model to reduce the number of people in the room. If you need support reconfiguring a space, the Planning, Design and Real Estate team is available to discuss space layouts. Contact them at

Parking and mobility

Sheehy addressed parking, commuting and other mobility issues on campus.

  • Monthly parking permits are still available. But permit holders can still put them on hold if they are still working remotely or only coming to campus intermittently.

  • Daily parking is available through the ParkMobile app throughout campus. Most are still $5, although the Ruskin lot has been raised to $10, because of the demand for that area.

  • They are working with ParkMobile on a reservation system that would allow you to go on starting at 2 a.m. to reserve a spot for the day.

  • Carpooling and vanpooling have resumed with safety measures in place, including cleaning protocols. There also are vehicles that fit five to eight people now available through Commute with Enterprise.

  • Pitt is working with Port Authority to expand routes and stops in Oakland. And there also might be a partnership with Carnegie Mellon and UPMC on shuttle routes to more park and ride lots.

  • Healthy Ride still provides bikes and may soon have e-bikes available.

Resources for making the transition

“I understand that there are going to be people who are going to be anxious about returning to campus,” said Mark Burdsall, vice chancellor for Human Resources.

There are resources available in different areas:

  • An expanded list of child care resources is available on the Office of Human Resources website, including child care options and child care finder tools. 

  • Life Solutions is available for those experience mental health issues because of the transition. Find other mental health resources on the HR website.

  • The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also can provide support, Burdsall said.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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