Asymptomatic Testing, Travel Advice & Tips, Post-Thanksgiving Campus Postures
Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community:
As we approach the last weeks before the Thanksgiving break, I offer my sincere thanks for your vigilance and perseverance in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. We’ve received numerous appreciative messages from community members thanking CMU students, faculty and staff for adhering to the protocols of physical distancing and wearing face coverings while both on and off campus.
As we start to experience cooler weather and move activities inside, we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases here in Pennsylvania and across the nation. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh this past Sunday moved to an Elevated Risk Posture for its campus due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past week.
Also, late last week, we announced that a CMU student living off campus tested positive for COVID, resulting in the largest cluster of cases among students to date. While the Tartan community has been diligent in following the guidelines of A Tartan's Responsibility, this served as yet another reality check that the risks of informal gatherings of family and friends are currently the most common transmission points for COVID-19.
It’s understandable to experience “pandemic fatigue” and to let down your guard. I urge you to continue your vigilance. Stay the course and adhere to the proven mitigation protocols of completing the daily self-assessment, maintaining physical distancing, wearing facial coverings, and consistently washing your hands. As has always been the case, if we see an uptick in cases among our community members, we will need to consider limiting the privileges of in person instruction and other activities on campus. In the interim, please, continue to do your part — represent Tartans all in, everywhere.
Asymptomatic Testing and Travel Advice
We are aware that some of you are planning to travel for the Thanksgiving break and may conclude the remainder of the fall semester in another location. As Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Gina Casalegno wrote last week, the best way to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others is to quarantine for 14 days before traveling and whenever possible avoid high risk travel (PDF).
Additionally, prior to the Thanksgiving break, CMU is offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing to all Pittsburgh-based students November 9-13 and November 16-18. Please note that these testing slots are limited and filling up rapidly, particularly for next week. I strongly encourage you to secure an appointment via the HealthConnect portal as soon as possible to avoid missing out on this opportunity. We recommend that you do not travel until you have received a negative test result.
Students who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 should not access testing through this method. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 14 days, please stay home and access care by calling University Health Services at 412-268-2157.
We intend to offer pre-travel testing for all students in December. Details will be announced after Thanksgiving.
Safe Travel Tips
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of facial coverings during travel, as well as hand washing, staying at least six feet apart from other travelers and avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth. The CDC also advises travelers to study COVID-19 cases in your destination plus any areas along your journey. Here is a CDC list of low-, moderate- and high-risk activities associated with Thanksgiving.
Additionally, the American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends (PDF) a “know before you go” approach to travel this fall to help keep our communities healthy.
Service Posture Post-Thanksgiving
CMU will move to remote instruction between November 25 and December 22.
For students, this means:
- Remote instruction only;
- Practice room and studio space access is permitted with approval from your dean;
- Residential students who travel during the holiday weekend are expected to move out of the residence halls prior to travel;
- Non-curricular gatherings will be permitted subject to approval and not to exceed 25 people;
- Limited shared spaces and services will be open to support students who stay throughout this period, although hours will be modified consistent with the de-densification of campus;
- Essential on-campus services will continue; and
- Daily Self-Assessment continues.
Similarly, faculty and staff can expect:
- Approved Return to Campus Plans will remain in effect, but no new plans will be approved at this time until further notice;
- Faculty and staff not approved to return to campus should continue to work remotely;
- Instructors may use assigned on-campus teaching and learning facilities to deliver remote instruction – classrooms will not be assigned for final assessments/exams;
- Essential on-campus services will continue; and
- The Daily Self-Assessment continues.
All In Over Winter Break
CMU will be closed for Winter Break from December 24 until January 3. During this time, we ask all students, faculty and staff to remain vigilant. Maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others from outside your household. Wash hands regularly with soap and water and wear a facial covering when outside your home. Following the winter break closure, some campus services and resources will be open to serve students, faculty and staff with modified hours. Please check university websites for updated hours of operation.
Look for an update soon on CMU’s return-to-campus protocols for spring semester.
Finally, I urge all students, faculty and staff to get a flu shot as soon as possible. University Health Services (UHS) reminds us that getting a flu shot is more important than ever and is a requirement for Pittsburgh students, as outlined in A Tartan's Responsibility. Students can visit the UHS website for scheduling information. Appointments can be made online or by calling 412-268-2157.
Faculty and staff can find information on our flu vaccination program through the Human Resources website.
Again, thank you all for continuing to persevere with healthy practices during these challenging times. Doing so every day will lead us all to a successful conclusion to this academic term and a healthy and safe winter break.
Chief of Staff and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives