Dean to students: ‘Be wary of misinformation about COVID-19’

University Communications to Students
Distributed: December 17, 2020
Posted: December 21, 2020

Dear Students,

Having finished finals, I am hopeful you are finding time to rest after a challenging semester. Unfortunately, COVID-19 numbers continue to be high, presenting significant risk, especially here in Allegheny County where hospital beds are in short supply. Please take a few moments to review:

New this Week:

Vaccine Being Distributed

On the good news front, the COVID-19 vaccine distribution has begun. Frontline workers, including some of our students working in the hospitals, have begun receiving prompts about receiving the vaccine soon. The University is also hopeful we will be selected to serve as a Vaccine Pod Distribution site sometime in the Spring. However, we have a long way to go to obtaining “herd immunity” and thus must continue measures currently in place.

Continue Practice for the Common Good

Though the vaccine distribution brings indication we may finally be moving to extinguish the pandemic, State officials are emphasizing that we have a long road yet to travel. Therefore, all are urged by the State to “still wash your hands, wear a mask and socially distance, probably until at least April and maybe until the summer…”

Be Wary of Misinformation About COVID-19

Experts are finding an immense body of inaccurate information regarding the pandemic and COVID-19 virus, which can be deadly if we are not critical of what information we consume about it. Misinformation spreads easily on the internet because social media platforms are incentivized to promote eye-catching emotional content over the facts. To see firsthand how easy it is to manipulate these algorithms with false and misleading information, check out the game “Go Viral” from the information experts at the University of Cambridge. It’s a fun and short game, check it out!


Use the PA COVID-19 App

To help combat the surge and quickly identify contacts if you or one of your contacts tests positive for COVID-19, all State of Pennsylvania residents are urged to use the “COVID Alert PA” app. This free app can be easily downloaded to your cell phone from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Quarantine Prior to Return to Campus

As in August, we are asking all students to self-quarantine 14 days prior to physically returning to campus. This means reducing contacts outside your home to only that which is necessary and completing self-screen protocols daily. All who physically return to the residence halls or athletic competition will be expected to produce a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival or be tested on site. All will then be required to complete a second test approximately four (4) days later.

Next Communication, Thursday, January 7

Next Thursday is Christmas Eve, so this will be the last University Communication to Students of 2020. May each of you experience a deep sense of peace when you need it most over the semester break.

The university will be closed beginning Wednesday, December 23, through Monday, January 4, for the Christmas break. If you need anything during this time please contact University Police, +1 (412) 578-6007 for emergencies or +1 (412) 578-6005 for non-emergencies. We will be monitoring email at but responses will not be immediate.

Take care, be well, and do good,

Timothy P. Phillips, Ph.D.
Vice President of Students Affairs & Dean of Students

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