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'We want everyone to be safe': Chapel Hill Town Council discusses UNC's reopening plan

Chapel Hill Town Council Zoom Meeting 7/29/2020
The Chapel Hill Town Council met to discuss UNC's Roadmap to Re-Opening at a special meeting July 29, 2020.

Chapel Hill community members voiced concerns about UNC’s reopening plan at a special Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Wednesday.

For almost three hours, Robert Blouin, UNC’s executive vice chancellor and provost, gave an update to the council on UNC’s roadmap for reopening, and the council had the opportunity to ask questions. The update covered topics like COVID-19 testing, Greek life and disciplinary actions for those who violate the community standards.

Blouin said the University will be partnering with UNC Health Care to provide more tests for COVID-19 and get quicker results. UNC will also continue to work with LabCorp to provide tests when a quick turnaround is not crucial, he said. 

Council member Jessica Anderson asked Blouin whether testing all students, not just those who meet certain criteria, would be beneficial. 

Blouin said the University will be following CDC guidelines and will not be doing universal testing for anyone who may be asymptomatic. The only exception to this will be athletes, he said. 

Blouin also said concerns about universal testing include students having a false sense of security if they receive a negative test. 

“A large percentage of patients may end up testing negative but still harbor the virus,” Blouin said.

Anderson then asked about the concerns the public made at a July 14 Carrboro Town Council meeting about Greek organizations holding parties and being a public health hazard.

Blouin said many times that the main difficulty with fraternities and sororities is that their houses are off campus, but they will be working with the Town to help enforce the community standards.

All students were required to acknowledge community standards centered around wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and washing hands, he said.

Council member Allen Buansi asked Blouin what the repercussions would be for those who violate the community standards.

Blouin said disciplinary actions would range from students' presence on campus being questioned to being de-enrolling from a course and being de-enrolled from the University.

For faculty and staff, adhering to the community standards is a condition of employment, he said.

Council member Amy Ryan said one of her priorities would be making the term “community” inclusive of the towns as well as the University, and not be solely campus-focused.

“I think there needs to be a mindset change,” Ryan said. “We can just try not to have that distinction that these behaviors end at those stone walls, but that there’s something we’re all going to do together.” 

When the floor was opened up to public comments, one of the main concerns was that most off-campus housing is located in the Northside and Pine Knolls communities, where many at-risk populations live.

George Barrett, executive director at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, said Northside neighbors are consistently following health guidelines, but they have seen students not wearing masks and gathering in large groups all around Northside.

"Normal life for you can cause someone to lose their life," Barrett said one Northside neighbor said to him.

Logan Pratico, a UNC alumnus and Chapel Hill resident, said he was stunned at UNC’s decision to reopen and have in-person classes. He said the University should be ashamed of itself for prioritizing student tuition and money over the lives of Chapel Hill citizens. 

“We are one community," Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said to end the discussion. "We want everyone to be safe."


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