UNC-Chapel Hill switches to distance learning after 135 cases of COVID-19 within week of starting classes

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Monday it was converting to all virtual classrooms after reporting 135 new cases of COVID-19 and four groups within a week of starting in-person classes for semester. fall – a result many critics feared when the university decided to reopen.

“After consulting with state and local health officials, infectious disease experts from # UNC and the UNC system, Carolina is in the process of making two changes to de-densify the campus,” the school announced on Twitter. Monday afternoon. “On Wednesday August 19, all undergraduate teaching will switch to distance learning.”

UNC-Chapel Hill became the first college to send students home after it reopened.

“Given the number of cases already in colleges, it is only a matter of time before they all switch to distance learning,” said Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at the ‘Seton Hall University.

The change was announced within an hour of adding the updated case count to the school’s CV-19 dashboard, which tracks metrics such as tests completed, positive cases, and isolation and quarantine capacity.

The dashboard shows 135 new positive cases of COVID-19 – 130 students and five employees – for the week of August 10 to August 16.

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According to the dashboard, the cumulative rate of positive COVID-19 test results at UNC-Chapel Hill is 10.6% – higher than the statewide rate of 7.5%. Of the 954 tests performed the week of August 10, 135 positive, or 13.6%, were reported. About 10 new cases have been reported in the previous weeks.

“This morning, we tested 954 students and have 177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, both on and off campus,” university officials wrote in a statement. “So far, we’ve been fortunate that most of the students who test positive have had mild symptoms.”

The most recent “cluster” – defined as five or more cases in a single room or a single dwelling – was found at Hinton James Residence Hall, the UNC said Sunday. Individuals in the cluster are being isolated and monitored, and residents in the dorms have been given additional information for next steps, the university said.

On Friday, the university identified two clusters of coronavirus in student residences, the Ehringhaus community and the Granville towers. And on Saturday, UNC announced another cluster at an off-campus fraternity house, Sigma Nu.

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, many students criticized the university’s preventive measures, saying they had failed to protect students, staff and the surrounding community.

“Many students, graduates, staff, some faculty, and even the local county health department have warned that this is about to happen,” said Lamar Richards, student chair of the Campus Equality Commission and student equity at UNC.

On Sunday, in an open letter to the Carolina community, Richards wrote that “the administration’s negligence and dereliction of duty” led to these outbreaks.

James Sadler, a doctoral student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education, echoed those sentiments.

“The college dashboard and plan was designed in such a way that they knew people were going to get sick,” Sadler said. “Maybe not as quickly or as much in volume, but it’s worth asking: what parts of higher education are worth saving for people’s lives?”

An emergency meeting between administrators and faculty members was scheduled for later Monday to discuss the situation.

More than a week before the start of classes, a group of more than 30 full professors wrote in an open letter to undergraduates expressing their fears over the university’s decision to reopen “too quickly and completely” this autumn.

“Under current conditions, it is not safe for you to come to campus,” faculty members wrote in the letter published in The Charlotte Observer. “Stay home this fall.”

Just before school started, Sadler told NBC News that the school’s first cases were a premonitory warning for an outbreak.

“Today we say: we told you,” he said.

The student newspaper The Daily Tarheel also called out to university leaders, writing an op-ed with the headline, “UNC Has A Cluster – In Its Hands.” “

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