Carolina will begin a more rigorous testing program for the COVID-19 virus as students soon return to town and the campus. Classes are scheduled to start Jan. 19.
Going into the spring semester, all undergraduate students planning to live 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.
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 UNC’s Daily Health Checklist to monitor symptoms. Testing will be voluntary.
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 in late November. “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 Jan. 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 has adapted 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 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.
The University has been posting updates and details about plans at carolinatogether.unc.edu.
UNC 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.
Five modes of instruction will be available this spring: two in-person and three remote modes of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Deans worked with their schools and departments to identify courses that benefit most from in-person instructional modes.
Most classes with more than 35 students will be taught remotely, but the University expects to 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 are being 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.
UNC also plans to forego spring break in anticipation of continued disruption from the pandemic, planning instead for five break days that are part of spring’s academic calendar: Feb. 15–16, March 11–12 and April 5.
The last day of classes will be May 5; Commencement is scheduled for May 16. The 2020 winter Commencement was postponed with the intent to hold it in May as well.
Normal dorm capacity plus Granville is 9,500. Besides offering only single-occupancy rooms, UNC plans to expand quarantine and isolation spaces. Carolina Housing has sent information to all who were residents in the fall and to those who previously held housing contracts.
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 continue through Jan. 25.
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.