New COVID spike, updated policies as academic year begins

As students returned to campus, Carnegie Mellon students received an update from COVID-19 Coordinator Stan Waddell regarding the current campus posture. The Carnegie Mellon community is still in its “Transitional Services” phase. This means in-person instruction is predominant with limited remote instruction.

It is important to note that all community members are required to be up to date on vaccination and boosters unless an exception has been granted. On campus, vending machines that contain free KN95 masks and rapid tests are still available. However, testing and masking are both optional at this time. Tartan Testing is also still available by appointment. Despite the encouraged Tartan Testing for community members, it has seen little usage compared to last year.

Last August and September, students returning to campus were required to complete two baseline asymptomatic tests. This resulted in 35,958 Tartan Tests being completed during those months. The Carnegie Mellon dashboard reports that this year, when no such testing was required, only 43 Tartan Tests were completed during the month of August. However, this number is not accurate. Looking at the public dataset shows that a total of 798 Tartan Tests were completed during the month of August, with 37 of them testing positive — a 4.64 percent positivity rate, which is the second highest so far after April 2022.

According to the dashboard, 231 Tartan Tests were completed between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1. Of the 231, 14 of those tests were positive — a 6.06 percent positivity rate.

As of Sept. 11, the information on the COVID-19 dashboard that appears to have been updated in the last 24 hours is the number of hospital admissions month to date (0) and vaccination rates, which was updated the previous night. The number of cases on and off campus hadn’t been updated since almost a week ago on Sept. 5, and Tartan Testing numbers had not been updated since Sept. 1 — a 10 day gap.

However, the public dataset that is linked on the dashboard gives information that is not reflected in the dashboard. Between Sept. 6 and Sept. 9, 61 students on campus reported testing positive, 114 students off campus reported testing positive, 17 faculty and staff on campus reported testing positive, and 17 faculty and staff off campus reported testing positive. On Sept. 6, 125 positive cases alone were reported, including those reported over Labor Day weekend.

As testing on campus is no longer required, it is expected that those who test positive report their result to Community Health and Well-Being. They are supposed to complete a Google Form describing when they tested positive, when they were last on campus, and their plans for isolating. Those who test positive or are likely to test positive are expected to isolate for at least seven days.

In a change from last semester, the University is no longer providing isolation housing for the people who test positive or those who live with them. According to the communication on the University webpage,, “Consistent with current CDC guidance for colleges and universities, residential students who test positive will be instructed to isolate in place in their currently assigned rooms, suites or apartments.” Roommates of those who test positive are expected to continue living with them because, “given the highly transmissible nature of the current variants and the fact that most people who test positive were contagious two days before symptoms appeared, it is likely that roommates have already been exposed to the virus.”