Dear Pitt Community Members:

With our fall term drawing to a close, I pause to thank you all for another remarkable term during another remarkable year. However, I am also mindful that 2021 is ending on an unwelcome note of growing alarm and uncertainty over the spread of the omicron variant.

All over the world, scientists and health officials are scrambling to better understand the risks that this new variant poses. Details are still emerging, and many questions remain. We know that omicron moves exceptionally fast and that it can infect those who are fully vaccinated or even reinfect those who have recovered from COVID-19. This combination—being highly infectious even among well-vaccinated populations—has resulted in some recent outbreaks on several college campuses across the country. And, while we have not seen an outbreak in our university community this term, omicron’s rapid spread raises questions about what this means for our return to campus in the spring.

Please know that we are closely monitoring this situation and the evolving health guidance. We have not yet made any changes to our spring term plans, but I want to emphasize that this situation could change over the winter break. 

With this in mind, I urge everyone to: 

  • Stay informed. Visit our dedicated website, coronavirus.pitt.edu, for the latest information regarding our return-to-campus plans for the spring term. 
  • Remain flexible. We will update this site regularly and post information about return-to-campus plans no later than Jan. 3. Everyone should be prepared for possible adjustments to our return-to-campus plans as the pandemic and the risks associated with it continue to evolve.
  • Get vaccinated and boosted. While vaccination is not a foolproof mechanism for preventing infection against omicron, emerging evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccines—and, in particular, boosters—do play a role in preventing people from becoming seriously ill once infected. Otherwise put: Vaccination remains the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against COVID-19.   
  • Do your part to minimize transmission. We’re heard these tips many times before, but taking basic precautions—including wearing a mask and social distancing whenever possible—is an effective way to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19.

I realize that these developments are unwelcome and that everyone is tired of this pandemic. We all need this break, and I hope that you take the opportunity, over the next few weeks, to rest, recharge and reconnect with your family and loved ones. Thankfully, our community has proven to be incredibly resilient and strong, and we will get through this next phase of the pandemic together. 

Until then: Be well, stay safe—and best wishes for a brighter and better 2022.

With gratitude,

Patrick Gallagher