By SUSAN JONES
Last week, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told the Board of Trustees that Pitt will “strongly recommend and expect all of our community — students, faculty and staff — to be fully vaccinated before they come back on campus for the fall term,” but stopped short of saying COVID-19 vaccines would be required.
CAMPUS RETURN WILL BEGIN JULY 19
In a message to Pitt staff today, David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations, said the return to in-person work on campus is expected to begin the week of July 19 and proceed gradually until the end of August in anticipation of student arrival.
The current on-campus and remote work standard and guideline will be revoked on July 15, and the more liberal Interim Flexible Work Arrangements Policy will become effective. The interim policy (read more about it in the June 18 University Times) details the various flexible work arrangements and gives details about preparing a submission request.
Updates on facilities and transportation are posted on the Business and Operations website. Also, for now, Pitt will continue to require face coverings indoors, but physical distancing rules have been lifted in most settings.
In a message to the Pitt community on July 1, Gallagher reiterated that the University is strongly recommending “that every member of our campus community be fully vaccinated, and our planning efforts to date assume that everyone follows this recommendation.”
“The degree to which our campuses will ‘return to normal’ — i.e., are free of the many controls and requirements imposed during our last academic year — hinges on what share of students, faculty and staff follow our strong recommendation to be fully vaccinated.”
A message today from David DeJong, senior vice chancellor reiterated that “It will be your responsibility — as a member of the Pitt community — to follow the appropriate mitigation measures based on your vaccination status.”
Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner sent a message to students this week that said those will be moving into University housing for the fall 2021 term are required to submit proof of immunization to the Student Health Service or request an exemption.
Students who are vaccinated will not be required to comply with most mitigation measures, such as COVID-19 routine testing, contact tracing, shelter in place, or quarantine when exposed to COVID-19.
Students who are not vaccinated, who do not disclose their vaccination status, or who request an exemption from vaccination will be required to:
Shelter in place at home for seven days prior to traveling to campus and seven days after arriving on campus.
Submit a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival
Comply with additional mitigation measures to attend in-person events and activities, such as completing a second COVID-19 test with a negative result 48 hours after arrival on campus and attending events wearing a face covering both indoors and outdoors.
Participate in a mandatory routine testing program throughout the term.
In preparing for the fall, Gallagher said, Pitt will assume everyone is unvaccinated unless they voluntarily provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated.
The University is evaluating ways to allow faculty and staff to voluntarily provide proof of their vaccination status and will provide more details regarding that process soon, a Pitt spokesman said.
Any information shared on vaccine status is protected, and the medical staff will only use it to determine which personal health requirements apply.
Mandates or not
“There’s a media debate happening today that tends to equate the existence of a mandate about vaccines with whether a campus is safe,” Gallagher said at the Board of Trustees meeting. “This is a very unhelpful and counterproductive discussion.”
He noted that many of the campus vaccine mandates aren’t really mandates. “A close review of the announcements at schools that have announced mandates shows that there will be unvaccinated individuals on those campuses. And in fact when you look at the practices, mandate or no mandate, being proposed on most U.S. campuses, they are quite similar.”
On May 20, Senate Council passed a resolution encouraging the University to require vaccinations for people planning to return to campus. Similar resolutions have been passed at Penn State and Temple universities, Senate Council President Chris Bonneau said then, with strong support from their faculty.
So far, more than 500 universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Chatham and Point Park, have said that students need to be vaccinated before they return to their campuses, although some have said the requirement hinges upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. No public universities in Pennsylvania have announced a vaccine mandate.
At the Board of Trustees meeting, Gallagher said Pitt is operating on the belief that “vaccines are safe, available and highly effective.”
“Our safety program must be able to accommodate the risks associated with having some portion of our community that is not vaccinated,” he said. “We will not bar somebody from attending or working at Pitt based on their vaccine status, however, this mixed immunity will complicate our responsibility to ensure that the campus is safe and healthy for everyone. … Things like testing and quarantining and PPE and all of those too-familiar requirements may be required next year, although those that are vaccinated will likely be exempted from many of those requirements.”
The chancellor said while Pitt will not be back to pre-COVID, fully normal operations this fall, “it will be very close to the same robust environment of Pitt that existed before this pandemic. Depending how large the unvaccinated population is, we may have disruptions if the imposition of virus control measures to ensure safety are necessary, but the campus will be safe.”
Vaccine disclosure drawings
Pitt is trying to determine what percentage of the campus community is vaccinated, which will impact what safety measures need to be taken in the fall. Those who disclose their vaccination status through a short online survey are being entered into a weekly prize drawing.
The first nine winners in the vaccination disclosure form drawings, which started on June 23, were announced this week.
To be eligible for the drawings, which will be held each week through Aug. 6, participants must fill out Pitt’s Vaccination Disclosure Form stating that they are vaccinated or that they have a medical or religious reason for why they are not vaccinated. Individuals who have disclosed by midnight on the day of the drawing are eligible for that week’s drawings.
To enter the drawings, a pitt.edu login is required to verify your University status. Other employees or students will not have access to your data — individual responses will remain private. Winners can choose whether to share their names publicly.
Pitt faculty, staff and students are all eligible for the drawings, but the drawings this week and next will be specifically for undergraduate students across all campuses only. Each week prizes will be given ranging from $2,500 in cash to gift certificates, research funding support and tickets to sporting events
The winners selected on June 23 are:
Staff member, $2,500 grand prize
Computer science and applied statistics undergraduate student, Pittsburgh campus, $500 Panther Funds
Madelyn Kenepp, nursing undergraduate student, Pittsburgh campus, Apple Watch
Computer science graduate student, Pittsburgh campus, $500 Giant Eagle gift card
Alyssa Mathews, staff, $500 Giant Eagle gift card
Sofia Cadahia, nutrition science undergraduate student, Pittsburgh campus, $100 Panther Funds
MJ Shulnes, computer systems information and technology undergraduate, Pitt-Bradford, $100 Walmart gift card
Psychology and criminate justice undergraduate student, Pitt-Greensburg, $100 gift card
Mechanical engineering undergraduate student, Pitt-Johnstown, $100 gift card
If you are selected as a winner in a drawing, you will need to submit proof of vaccine or an approved exemption.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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