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

Pitt researchers find convalescent plasma "futile' in treating critically ill COVID-19 patients

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - “We speculate that it could be a combination of too few high-quality antibodies in the plasma and these patients being too far along in their illness with a runaway inflammatory immune response for those antibodies to turn the tide,” said co-senior author Derek Angus (BCHS '92), the chief innovation officer at UPMC and chair of Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine and secondary faculty in HPM.   

Hospitals brace for an onslaught this winter, from flu as well as COVID

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NPR - The much-feared "twindemic" of flu and COVID didn't hit last winter. But some experts fear that last year's remarkably mild flu season has now set the stage for a big rebound in the coming months, because fewer people have built up immunity. "It could be really bad, and it could be really bad at a time when there's still quite a bit of COVID-19 filling up our hospitals," says HPM and PHDL’s Mark Roberts.  

Does 1918 Pandemic Offer Clues on Emerging from COVID-19?

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U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT - Dean Emeritus Donald Burke is an expert at using computer modeling and simulation to guide public health decision-making. He said it's important to consider the death rate and not simply the death total. "Even though the death totals are similar [for COVID-19 and the 1918 flu], the death rates — that is the rate per 100,000 people, or per-unit population — are lower now from covid than it was for influenza by about t... 

The Most Important Vaccine I'll Get This Fall

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THE ATLANTIC - HPM's Mary Krauland said flu viruses, already a familiar threat to our immune system, spread less easily than SARS-CoV-2, which made them easier to stamp out with masks, physical distancing, school closures and international travel bans, even when adherence was spotty. Cases around the globe plummeted. But "no one expected flu to go away forever," she said.   

Latinos Surpass Non-Latinos in COVID-19 Vaccination in Pennsylvania, But The Numbers Come with Caveats

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WESA-FM - Reaching 50 percent of Latinos was made possible by intentional directed community efforts, according to Diego Chaves-Gnecco (MMPH '00). "We take people on a walk-in basis. We're vaccinating adults without health insurance, without appointments, and in their same language, in Spanish," he said. "We are also not requiring any type of documentation."   

Allegheny County breakthrough cases increasing, but vaccinated still avoid serious illness

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PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE - The jab also appears to have a slight reduction in effectiveness against the delta variant compared to prior dominant virus strains, said EPI and IDM's Lee Harrison. But it should still protect people from severe disease if they do become infected. "I think what it tells us most clearly is, if we can get the rest of the population vaccinated, it will turn COVID into more of a nuisance than a major cause of hospitalizati... 

Biden's Mandate Requires Weekly COVID-19 Testing for Unvaccinated Employees. That Will Get Expensive.

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WESA - "There are arguments that say...if they're not willing to get a fully authorized, now-approved vaccine, then they need to bear the brunt of the cost," said HPM's Tina Batra Hershey.  

Hoffman says look to influencers to fight vaccine misinformation

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CODA - Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19, ‘22) said public health institutions should be thinking more about how to harness local influencers. She pointed to a June 2021 study by researchers with the Public Good Projects, a U.S.-based public health nonprofit, analyzing the success of a micro-influencer campaign promoting the flu shot flor Black and Latino U.S. residents during influenza seasons.   

Harrison co-authors Conversation piece - Massive numbers of new COVID-19 infections, not vaccines, are the main driver of new coronavirus variants

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THE CONVERSATION – The rise of coronavirus variants globally has highlighted the huge influence evolutionary biology has on daily life. But how mutations, random chance, and natural selection produce variants is a complicated process. What EPI and IDM’s Lee Harrison and a Pitt Medicine colleague have learned over the past 18 months of following how the coronavirus has acquired different mutations around the world.  

Odds of death for COVID-19 patients 'falling 5 percent every month,' Angus and other UPMC doctors say

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PENN LIVE - "We have found [monoclonal antibody treatments] to be remarkably safe and remarkably effective," said HPM faculty Derek Angus (BCHS '92) who is also the Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair of Critical Care Medicine at Pitt Medicine. UPMC is also involved in a global trial, known as REMAP, which uses a relatively new method of clinical trials to test new treatments. Angus said that the REMAP trial "helped settle the debate that hydroxychlo... 

Roberts: Flu and COVID-19 'twindemic' is possible this winter

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - Using two separate models, HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory found that without an increase in flu vaccination rates this coming winter, the U.S. could be at risk of a "twindemic" with both seasonal flu and COVID-19 cases at high levels. That possibility is due to the "rather dramatic decrease in influenza last (2020-20) season that occurred because of the COVID-19 mitigation strategi... 

Harrison on possible J&J Booster

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KDKA-TV  - "I would not expect anything worrisome with a booster dose but we need to see what the data shows," said Pitt Medicine and EPI's Lee Harrison.   

U.S. Energy Firms Launching Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

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REUTERS - Energy and construction workers have some of the lowest vaccine uptake rates, according to an online survey led by EPI's Wendy King. Some 45% of extraction and construction workers said they were hesitant to get the vaccine, versus just 7.3% in the computer and mathematical professions, the May survey showed.   

A group of moms on Facebook built an island of good-faith vaccine debate in a sea of misinformation

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THE WASHINGTON POST - People concerned about vaccine safety may be easier to convince than those who don't trust the government or medical authorities, said EPI's Wendy King (EPI '04). Earlier this year, King surveyed more than 5 million U.S. adults about their attitudes toward coronavirus vaccines. Many who said they may not or won't get vaccinated said they feared side effects – a sign they may be influenced by misinformation.  

Nace on 'interesting ride' of COVID information dissemination

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KDKA RADIO - On the topic of the recently-released information on boosters for mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, David Nace (EPI '95), chief medical officer for UPMC Senior Communities pointed out that this wasn't a shock. "There's been a lot of data from these vaccines, but also from our prior experience with other vaccines, like the flu vaccine. We know that there tends to be a drop off, not with all but some tend to have a decline in the response o... 

Harrison talks about when boosters might be available to the general public

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PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW - "What they're aiming for is starting September 20, eight months after the second dose. I'm hoping the rollout will go smoothly starting on that date. The process is authorization by FDA for a booster dose, and then ACIP makes the recommendation about the booster dose." said EPI's Lee Harrison.   

PA is trying county fairs, text messages, and door-knocking to raise the vaccination rate. Success is slowly coming.

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PHILADEPHIA INQUIERER - "The issues left are vaccine hesitancy, or they don't feel there's a strong enough need to jump through the hoops they would need to to get the vaccine," said EPI's Wendy King. Her research includes a nationwide survey of more than five million respondents and suggests that while vaccine hesitancy as a whole is decreasing, there's still a consistent group of people who say they will "definitely not" get a vaccine.   

'Wisdom and Fear' Lead 90% of U.S. Seniors to COVID Vaccines

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KAISER HEALTH NEWS - HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab, cautioned that the success of the vaccination push among seniors doesn't mean others in this age group can grow complacent and think they are protected via herd immunity.   

People who already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, scientists like Hartman urge

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC - For instance, says IDM's Amy Hartman, studies have shown that some recovered patients can mount effective defenses against COVID-19, but antibody levels dropped rapidly in others who were infected. Scientists are still gathering data and racing to answer this key question and others, such as how long immunity lasts from vaccines or from natural infection.  

Garland Examines Rise in Young People's Involvement in Local Violence on Hayes-Freeland show (video)

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KDKA - BCHS' Richard Garland spoke with KDKA's Lynne Hayes-Freeland about the factors that are contributing to a rise in violence among youth in Pittsburgh.  

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.