As the University prepared to roll out the welcome mat for its 29,500 students later this month, leaders on Friday issued more revisions to the campus plan to address the COVID-19 threat and the heightened danger posed by the virus’s delta variant.
The changes, announced in an email message to campus members, make vaccine reporting and COVID-19 testing rules uniform for all faculty, staff and students.
Previously, only unvaccinated students, as well as students who declined to share their status through UNC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Certification Form, would be subject to weekly testing protocols regardless of the presence of virus symptoms. The new rules extend that order to all unvaccinated members of the UNC community, effective Sept. 15. They also make registering a COVID-19 Vaccination Certification Form a requirement for all UNC faculty, staff and students.
The University also updated its masking guidance to require students to wear a face covering at all indoor, off-campus gatherings held by registered student organizations. Masks are also mandated in all indoor spaces on campus.
As with students, faculty and staff who have not been vaccinated or who decline to share their vaccination status will need to undergo weekly testing for the virus. Receiving the vaccine remains a choice for members of the UNC community, leaders said, but is “strongly recommended.”
More than 27,000 students have completed the vaccine attestation and 93 percent indicated they are vaccinated, the email message noted. Campus leaders added that 65 percent of faculty and staff members have certified that they are vaccinated, while 60 percent of each group has uploaded proof of vaccination.
The University currently does not have authority to require vaccines for those on campus; faculty leaders on Wednesday adopted a resolution asking the UNC System to grant that power to the chancellor and provost.
In a memo on Thursday, UNC System President Peter Hans ’91 recommended many of the measures the Chapel Hill campus is adopting.
“Chancellors should exercise their administrative authority over personnel at their institutions by putting a ‘get vaccinated or get tested regularly’ measure in place for their faculty and staff,” Hans wrote. “I think it’s reasonable, both for public health and for leadership by example, to ask our faculty and staff to comply with the same protective measures we are asking of our students.”
“As we continue to monitor current conditions, we are making important updates to these standards to ensure the safest possible environment when classes start on Wednesday, August 18,” a University statement said. “We appreciate the valuable input of campus leaders, including the Faculty Executive Committee, Employee Forum and Student Government, who have advocated for a more measured approach to ensuring a safer campus environment.
UNC Provost Robert Blouin asked the Faculty Executive Committee in its meeting on Wednesday over Zoom if they would be willing to be subject to the same requirements as students regarding vaccination attestation and testing protocols. Chair Mimi Chapman ’97 (PhD) emphatically agreed that extending the measures was appropriate.
UNC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Certification Form asks community members to attest to the dates and location they received their vaccines and the manufacturer of the vaccine. Those who complete the form will be exempt from weekly testing.
“Audits of attestations will occur on a regular basis,” the message said. “Ultimately, students, faculty and staff who are non-compliant or are found to have falsified documents may be subject to disciplinary action.”
The new guidance adds to previous COVID-19 protocol revisions announced on June 30. Carolina employees returned to work on July 19 under the new rules. That order lifted several past restrictions, including pandemic capacity limits on classrooms, buildings, events and other gatherings. UNC dining, transportation and parking will resume “near normal” operations, the University said. Domestic travel restrictions are lifted, but international restrictions are still in place.
Other standards for the campus community:
UNC will offer vaccinations for students and postdoctoral fellows at the Carolina Vaccination Clinic located at the Student Stores Pharmacy. The University encouraged faculty, staff and their family members to visit the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website to find a vaccination location.
Employees will be offered paid work time and paid administrative leave to get a vaccination or if they experience an adverse reaction to their vaccination.
“Paid work time, up to eight hours a day for each dose, for permanent and temporary employees is also available for vaccinations that occur within regular working hours,” the message said. “Paid administrative leave may also be used if an employee experiences a reaction to their vaccination, either on the day of the vaccination or the following day. “
More information about the provisions can be found on the University’s COVID-19 Leave Information website.
“With these updates, we are strengthening the three-pronged approach — vaccines, masks and testing — to help control the spread of the virus, keep each other safe and provide an in-person learning experience that is as close to normal as possible,” the University statement said.