COVID-19

As Pitt Public Health returns to in-person instruction fall term 2021, we would like to reassure the community that we are doing everything possible to keep our students, faculty, and staff healthy and safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Your well-being is of the utmost importance. As such, we will continue to follow the policies and procedures outlined by the University of Pittsburgh that seek to minimize the risk of infection while making the most of our ability to carry out the vital activities of teaching, research, and community service. 

These policies will continue the requirement of face coverings inside all University buildings regardless of vaccination status. In addition, those who are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised—or live with someone who is—should wear face coverings outdoors while on campus when they are unable to socially distance for a sustained period of time. We also strongly encourage our entire Pitt Public Health family to get vaccinated. Vaccination is by far the best tool we have to keep us all healthy and safe. We fully support the message from the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor of the Health Sciences that encourages everyone in the Pitt community to upload their vaccination cards. Doing so demonstrates our commitment to each other, the larger Pitt community, and beyond. 

Q and A on return to campus 
updated September 1, 2021

As this is an ever-changing situation, we will keep our community informed or any University-wide policy changes that may impact fall term plans. 

 

coronavirus.pitt.edu     Pitt vaccination clinic

Our Experts address COVID-19

Two public health leaders on COVID-19 and what's next

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PITTWIRE - Dean Lichtveld and Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, sat down to discuss lessons learned from the U.S. response to the pandemic and the future of the nation's health. As the United States settles into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, mask mandates are few and far between, hospitalizations have plummeted and more than three-quarters of Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vacc... 

Lessons from COVID: Survival was about more than age

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - A recent study looks at the factors contributing to Allegheny County being ranked higher than other populous Pennsylvania counties in its death rate. "Household income is the most important factor, period,” said Donald S. Burke, physician and former dean of Pitt Public Health, who did the study at the request of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with Hawre Jalal, a physician and associate professor of epidemiology at the Univ... 

Doctors are taking to social media to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and counter misinformation

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WTAE - Beth Hoffman (BCHS ’22) and friends at Kids Plus Pediatrics tell WTAE how doctors are taking to social media to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and counter misinformation. "The evidence does suggest that what people are seeing on social media is influencing their decision about whether to get themselves or their child vaccinated," said Beth Hoffman, a researcher at Pitt. The onslaught of questionable information has left many people wond... 

Flu making a comeback, could strain hospitals filled with Covid patients

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NBC NEWS – HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, said he’s concerned that regions of the country that currently don’t have mitigation measures for Covid will see a large increase in flu cases in the coming weeks. “What I think is worrisome now is that there are many states where they’re not doing much to try to prevent Covid,” Roberts said. “They’re getting rid of mask mandates, they’re letting people come indoor... 

Roberts: A poorly matched flu shot could mean a bad flu season on top of a Covid surge

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NBC – HPM’s Mark Roberts, said the data in the new preprint "is certainly consistent with what I know from the rest of the world right now.” The potential, he said, for a “really large influenza season this year is real. So much of the immunity that you get in a population comes from the people who had influenza the year before. There could be substantially bigger epidemics this year, especially if the strain that appears is different than the s... 

COVID-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say

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CNN - "We need more research to disentangle all the factors that may link seasonality to COVID-19 cases," HPM’s Hawre Jalal said. "Since it has been doing it twice so predictably, it's highly likely that a winter wave will happen again. That doesn't mean that we should give up and say, 'It's seasonal, we just have to go with that.' I think a very important distinction to make is that we have some predictable pattern to it, so we can prepare for ... 

Data analysts proved what Black Pittsburgh knew about COVID's racial disparities

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NPR - The ferocity of the COVID-19 pandemic did what Black Pittsburgh communities, which make up a quarter of the city's population, thought impossible. It shook the norms. Black researchers, medical professionals and allies knew that people of color experienced bias in public health policy, even before the pandemic. As the deadly virus emerged, data anaylsts, foundation directors, epidemiologists including Tiffany Gary-Webb, pooled their talent... 

Experts Say Oz's medical expertise can be double-edged, especially amid pandemic

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WESA - HUGEN's Lisa Parker, director of the Center for Bioethics and Health Law, said many people look to authority figures like Dr. Oz for guidance. But Parker said [his] credentials can lead to what bioethicists call “a generalization of expertise,” in which people assume that because someone is an expert in one area, they also have expertise in another.  

Harrison and other Medical Experts are Working to Detect the Omicron Variant

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WTAE - "The big question is when will we detect it and also how rapidly will it spread? There have been other variants that look scary that didn't spread very well in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so I expect that we will see it sometime soon but exactly what it will do when it gets here - we are not really clear," said EPI's Lee Harrison.   

Another wave of COVID is sweeping through Allegheny County, but this time it's different

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WESA - Part of the reason for the continued rise in cases is due to what's called seasonal forcing, or seasonal variation. "The weather is getting colder and that allows the [viral] droplets to hang around in the air longer. So what used to be safe is no longer safe," said HPM's Mark Roberts of the Public Health Dynamics Lab.   

Roberts: reduced natural immunity could mean flu more common

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THE WEATHER CHANNEL - Getting your flu vaccine can help improve your immunity to the flu significantly. But HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, worries that since natural immunity from exposure is where the bulk of population immunity comes from, the US may be in for a particularly virulent flu season.  

The U.S. Is Relying On Other Countries' Data To Make Its Booster Shot Decisions

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FIVETHIRTYEIGHT - Misinformation and news overload also contribute to the confusion, said EPI’s Lee Harrison. “For a lot of laypeople, it’s very difficult to know, ‘What source should I be using?’ And it’s even more difficult when you have all this misinformation trying to intentionally misguide people,” he said. State and local officials who undermine national policies — for example, by prohibiting vaccine mandates — don’t help, either.  

The road forward: All eyes now on Gainey to begin to address city's larger issues

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - During his campaign, Gainey often focused on task force reports, one of which says that their needs to be a shift in the police bureau. BCHS’s Richard Garland, a member of the task force, said the report showed officers needed more training – particularly in de-escalation techniques – and a better understanding of their communities. He said officers do need to walk the beats and their neighborhoods.  

Ganguli op-ed: Masking still makes sense for vaccinated individuals

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - In a recent Op-Ed from Mary Ganguli (EPI '87) says, "We all know there’s just too much information out there: some of it changing over time, some of it well-intended but misguided and some of it deliberate misinformation. It can be confusing and overwhelming. As a medical doctor and professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, I’d like to try to cut through that confusion."   

Now that your younger children can get a COVID-19 vaccine, here's how to be fully vaccinated by Christmas and Kwanzaa

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CNN - Many doctors, including Diego Chaves-Gnecco (MMPH ‘00), are encouraging their patients' parents to vaccinate as soon as possible in hopes of protecting children and those around them. Chaves-Gnecco, who is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, plans on bringing together his mother and his 7-year-old son this holiday season for the first time since the start of the pandemic -- after the latter gets vaccinated.  

Coronavirus questions, answered: Which booster is more effective, long lasting?

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WASHINGTON POST - Studies have not yet been done to determine how long Pfizer’s and Moderna’s boosters offer protection and whether one is more effective than the other. But EPI’s Lee Harrison does not expect to see significant differences between the brands by either measure. “I would feel extremely confident in the increased protection provided by a booster dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines,” he wrote in an email.  

This Flu Season is Different. Here's How to Prepare.

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NEW YORK TIMES - In a  study  published on a preprint server in August that has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh used mathematical modeling to predict how severe the upcoming flu season might be based on this increased susceptibility. They reported that if flu and flu vaccination levels are typical of prior years, 102,000 more Americans than average could be hospitalized with influenza — a 20 percent incr... 

To jab or not to jab? Vaccinations still hot topic in sports

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AP - “For athletes in particular, their livelihood is based on their ability to compete,” said EPI’s Wendy King (EPI '04), who took part in a research project on vaccine hesitancy earlier this year. “Even if they thought, ‘Oh, I’m pretty healthy and I wouldn’t get that bad of a case,’ it would still heavily impact their ability to go to work, to play in a game. It could affect their entire team — not just them — so they might feel like they’re l... 

Harrison is confident in both mRNA boosters

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WASHINGTON POST - Studies have not yet been done to determine how long Pfizer’s and Moderna’s boosters offer protection and whether one is more effective than the other. But EPI’s Lee Harrison told The Post that he does not expect to see significant differences between the brands by either measure. “I would feel extremely confident in the increased protection provided by a booster dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines,” he wrote in an email. ... 

Finegold: How to use precision medicine to personalize COVID-19 treatment according to the patient's genes

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THE CONVERSATION - HUGEN’s David Finegold and colleague “began a discussion about the promise and potential pitfalls of precision medicine before the arrival of COVID-19. If precision medicine is the future of medicine, then its application to pandemics generally, and COVID-19 in particular, may yet prove to be highly significant. But its role so far has been limited. Precision medicine must consider more than just genetics."  

Share stories about your COVID-19 work

If you are doing COVID-19-related work and would like the school to share your story online, in social media, and other venues, send a short paragraph to phcomm@pitt.edu describing what you are doing or visit publichealth.pitt.edu/share-news

Research coordination

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is coordinating research from Pitt and UPMC to plan and efficiently implement studies related to COVID-19 by managing resources, expertise, tools, and lab capabilities. Visit the COVID-19 research page for details.