Carolina will begin a more rigorous testing program for the COVID-19 virus as students return to town and the campus in January.
Going into the spring semester, all undergraduate students living on campus and in Chapel Hill or Carrboro will be required to take a test at home prior to arrival as well as regular testing twice a week, even if they aren’t displaying symptoms. UNC will provide more information and instructions as the winter break proceeds.
Testing for graduate students will depend on their interactions on campus and the requirements determined by their program. For example, those coming to campus to teach, learn or work in a lab will be required to test regularly, while some will be required to use the Daily Health Checklist to monitor symptoms and testing will be voluntary. Graduate students will hear more about their specific requirements from their programs in the coming weeks.
Faculty and staff working on campus will be asked to use the Daily Health Checklist to check symptoms before coming to work each day. Testing also will be available once a week for faculty and staff coming to campus for those who want to be tested. This follows the recommendations of UNC health care experts; contact tracing efforts in the fall confirmed there was no spread of the virus in the classrooms or workplaces.
“I recognize that there is still a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to the state of the virus now and in January,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote in a campus message. “As I write this, cases are going up across much of the nation, and we are heading into the colder months when the virus can spread more easily. We will closely monitor the cases and hospitalizations nationally, in our state and locally as we approach the semester, and will be ready to alter our plans and make necessary accommodations.
“We will announce any changes to the spring semester operations by January 9, and until then, we will prepare for the semester by making the decisions we believe will best help our community have a safe and successful semester.”
The University is adapting additional existing campus locations into testing centers and lab space. When students return to campus, asymptomatic evaluation testing will be available for students, faculty and staff at three campus locations: the CURRENT Art Space at Carolina Square, the Carolina Union and the Rams Head Recreation Center. The test will be a self-administered polymerase chain reaction (PCR) anterior nares nasal swab test. Results will be processed at a lab being built in the Genome Sciences Building, which will provide the capacity to receive results within 48 hours. UNC will use a web-based app, Hall Pass, that has been developed by UNC faculty for testing and results reporting.
The evaluation testing locations are intended for asymptomatic testing only. Symptomatic students will continue to be tested at Campus Health; symptomatic faculty and staff will continue to receive information from University Employee Occupational Health Clinic on where and when to be tested.
Campus Health conducted 4,150 exit tests in the week before students headed home for winter break just before Thanksgiving.
More details are available at carolinatogether.unc.edu. More specific information on the plan will be shared in December.
The University also has announced it plans to share publicly more information about numbers of and disposition of violations of its community standards for behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNC will share key data at carolinatogether.unc.edu on at least a quarterly basis (Feb. 1, May 1 and Aug. 1) that summarize community standards referrals for violations and outcomes.
About 80 percent of violation referrals between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31 resulted in findings of responsibility and a consequence for the students involved.
During that period:
• 456 incidents produced violation reports;
• 324 cases resulted in action, including written warnings, educational interventions, activity restrictions and probation;
• 56 students were evicted from campus housing; and
• 60 more ended in no violation, with 16 cases pending.
The University plans to house about 3,500 students in single-occupancy rooms in dorms and Granville Towers for the spring semester and to teach some in-person classes. Most classes with more than 35 students, however, will be taught remotely.
Classes are scheduled to start Jan. 19, and UNC will forego spring break in anticipation of continued disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, planning instead for five break days incorporated into the calendar, either individually or in clusters. The last day of classes will be May 5; Commencement is scheduled for May 16. Winter Commencement has been postponed with a plan to hold it in May as well.
About 1,500 students with special circumstances remained in on-campus housing for the fall semester. On-campus rates of COVID-19 infection by mid-October were negligible.
UNC will offer five modes of instruction for the spring: two in-person and three remote modes of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Deans are working with their schools and departments to identify courses that benefit most from in-person instructional modes.
The University will be able to accommodate a limited number of courses with up to 50 students for in-person modes of delivery based on the needs of the course.
Generally, priority for in-person courses will be given to classes designed to allow first-year students to explore a discipline; classes designed to provide seniors opportunities to enroll in capstones, seminars and specialized topics; and classes at any level that especially benefit from hands-on, in-person instruction.
Normal dorm capacity plus Granville is 9,500. Besides offering only single-occupancy rooms, UNC plans to expand quarantine and isolation spaces. Carolina Housing is sending information to all current residents and those who previously held housing contracts. Decisions about who will be able to live in the limited dorm space have not been announced.
Decisions on in-person and remote courses are linked with those regarding on-campus residency and testing.
Registration appointments for the spring began Nov. 30 and will continue through Jan. 25.