Aug 17, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus forces UNC to abandon in-person classes after one week

UNC campus
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo: Ted Richardson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will shift to remote learning after clusters of five or more coronavirus cases spread in three residence halls and within a fraternity, just one week after class began.

The big picture: Universities determined to reopen this fall boasted preventative measures that include smaller class sizes, cleaning protocols and even testing options, but problems still persist.

  • Reports of parties and informal gatherings, which are out of a university's control when they occur off-campus, are fueling the lack of social distancing practices among students,
  • "After only one week of campus operations, with growing numbers of clusters and insufficient control over the off-campus behavior of students (and others), it is time for an off-ramp. We have tried to make this work, but it is not working," UNC's Dean of Public Health Barbara Rimer said in a blog post Monday.

Details: Students were told in an email from UNC that they can cancel contracts with Carolina Housing with no penalty, and that residents with "hardships," like those without reliable internet access, international students or student athletes, can stay if they choose.

Driving the news: Students are now calling out their universities in college media outlets for not preparing for the inevitable and failing to address the potentially-devastating communal spread of COVID-19 in their college towns.

  • "We all saw this coming," The Daily Tar Heel, the school's paper, wrote in an editorial.
  • "University leadership should have expected students, many of whom are now living on their own for the first time, to be reckless."

By the numbers: The university’s positivity rate for COVID-19 rose from 2.8% to 13.6% last week, per the Tar Heel. As of Monday, UNC has 177 students in isolation and 349 students in quarantine both on and off campus. 

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