UNC confirms 13th COVID-19 clusters at Rams Village #5
Updated 12:00 p.m.: The University has confirmed a 13th COVID-19 cluster at Rams Village Building #5, via the Carolina Together website and UNC social media.
UNC announced last Friday that it would no longer use Alert Carolina to send COVID-19 emergency notifications after reporting 12 clusters on and around campus. In the announcement, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management George Battle said, “the positivity rate for COVID-19 on campus rate is decreasing.” UNC’s COVID-19 dashboard showed a 41.3 percent positivity rate for last week, a jump from the previous week’s positivity rate of 32.2 percent.
The University has not provided the number of cases in each cluster, and continues to use the NC DHHS definition of a cluster as “five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location.”
Updated 2:15 p.m.: UNC will no longer send Alert Carolina messages for a cluster of COVID-19. Information about clusters will be provided on the Carolina Together website and University social media.
"This change in our communications in no way diminishes the University’s sense of urgency in ensuring that this information is shared in a timely, transparent and accessible fashion," said Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and Risk Management George Battle in an email Friday.
On-campus housing has reduced about 45 percent and the positivity rate for COVID-19 has decreased to 10 percent during the past three days, Battle said in the email.
"It is important to note that fewer students remain on campus following our de-densification efforts, the positivity rate for COVID-19 on campus rate is decreasing, and members of our community are now generally aware, based upon our prior notification efforts, of the presence of COVID-19 on our campus," Battle said.
UNC reported 161 new cases of COVID-19 between Monday and Wednesday. Last week, the positivity rate at UNC was 32.2 percent.
Updated 5:58 p.m.: UNC confirmed a 12th cluster at Cobb Residence Hall on Thursday afternoon.
The Orange County Health Department issued a press release Thursday morning, listing Cobb as the site of a COVID-19 cluster. OCHD later said this was a 'typo.'
UNC Media Relations said in an email that OCHD "released information about a cluster at Cobb prior to the University issuing this formal announcement."
Cobb is the first dorm on North Campus to have a confirmed COVID-19 cluster.
Updated 12:36 p.m.: Orange County Communications Manager Kristin Prelipp said in an email to The Daily Tar Heel that the inclusion of Cobb Residence Hall in the press release was a "typo."
"If it has not been announced by UNC then it is not officially a cluster," Prelipp said in the email.
In the press release, Avery Residence Hall was also listed twice. Prelipp apologized for both errors.
"Things are moving very fast and we need to slow down," Prelipp said.
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Updated 11:15 a.m.: The Orange County Health Department identified a 12th COVID-19 cluster at Cobb Residence Hall in a press release Thursday. At the time of publication, this cluster has not been confirmed by an Alert Carolina. Cobb is the first residence hall on north campus to have a confirmed cluster.
The University will implement mass testing on Thursday and Friday, according to the press release.
"As a critical step to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect family, friends and community, public health officials are directing students departing from campus, those who remain in campus housing, and students who have already returned home to quarantine for 14 days," OCHD stated in the release.
Updated 3:15 p.m.: The University confirmed its 11th COVID-19 cluster at Koury Residence Hall on Tuesday. Carolina Housing previously asked students living on campus to cancel their housing contracts by Tuesday, with move-out appointments scheduled until Aug. 30.
Updated 2:10 p.m.: UNC confirmed its tenth cluster in 10 days at Avery Residence Hall on Sunday.
Updated 4:45 p.m.: The University reported a COVID-19 case cluster at Craige Residence Hall and Alpha Delta Pi sorority house in an Alert Carolina message Saturday.
These are the eighth and ninth clusters reported by the University.
According to the Alert Carolina, the individuals in these clusters have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical attention as needed.
The Orange County Health Department have also been notified.
Updated 8:45 p.m.: The University will conduct mass testing of three residence halls — Ehringhaus, Hinton James and Granville Towers, beginning Aug. 21 and continuing through Aug. 23. Case counts have increased at each of these residence halls, with many close contacts in quarantine.
"With an increasing rate of positive tests, it is necessary to conduct large group testing to help identify more cases and help prevent further spread. Residents in these halls will receive an email later this evening with instructions on how to get tested," Provost Blouin and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson said in an email Thursday night.
Employees who work in these residence halls will be tested starting Friday in a separate process.
The case counts have increased at each of these residence halls, with many close contacts in quarantine.
Updated 2:48 p.m.: The University reported another COVID-19 cluster in the Hinton James Residence Hall at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday via Alert Carolina. This is the fourth cluster reported in the past three days.
Two have already been reported at Ehringhaus Residence Hall and Granville Towers, and a third at the Sigma Nu fraternity.
According to the Alert Carolina, those in the cluster are already isolating and being monitored. The University is working with the Orange County Health Department to identify other potential exposures.
Updated 7:15 p.m.: Carolina Housing and Granville Towers sent emails notifying the affected communities of the identified COVID-19 clusters in their residence halls. These residents were not involved in the contact tracing already initiated by the University.
"At this time, you do not need to take any action," the emails stated. "The University has initiated its contact tracing protocol to identify who may have been in close contact with a positive individual."
The messages reminded residents to follow proper safety guidelines and monitor themselves daily for symptoms using the COVID-19 Screening Checklist.
"This news might be unsettling, but please know the testing and tracing protocols are in place to help minimize the spread of the disease," the emails stated. "As a reminder, traditional cleaning protocols have been enhanced to include cleaning/disinfection of “high touch” areas (elevator buttons, exterior door handles, etc.), common areas (laundry rooms, lounges, kitchens, etc.) and restrooms throughout each day."
Updated 3:30 p.m.: Associate Vice Chancellor for University Communications Beth Keith told The Daily Tar Heel that students living in the affected communities were notified this afternoon through emails from Carolina Housing and the Alert Carolina message.
Keith said the University will not share the number of cases in each cluster.
"Due to FERPA, we're not able to share specific numbers," Keith said.
When asked if the case numbers were reflected in UNC's COVID-19 dashboard, Keith said "the dashboard will be updated each Monday."
Updated 3 p.m.: UNC confirmed the clusters in an Alert Carolina sent Friday.
A cluster is defined as five or more cases that are deemed "close proximity in location," as defined by the North Carolina Department of Health had Human Services, according to the alert. UNC defines location as a single residence hall or dwelling.
"The individuals in these clusters have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring. We have also notified the Orange County Health Department and are working with them to identify additional potential exposures," the message stated.
UNC confirmed that contact tracing has been initiated. A close contact is defined as an individual who has been within six feet of an infected person without face coverings for more than 15 minutes.
"Those identified as a close contact will be notified directly and provided with further guidance," the message stated.
The University will not communicate details about individual cases, in accordance with the State Human Resources Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the message stated.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their medical provider, Campus Health or the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic, the message stated.
Two clusters of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers, according to an email sent to Carolina Housing student staff Friday.
In the email, obtained by The Daily Tar Heel, the Carolina Housing Residential Education Leadership Team said:
Contact tracing is occurring. Close contacts of those who are confirmed to test positive have been contacted by Campus Health.
Students who test positive are given the option to go into quarantine or isolation on campus or can choose to return home. "While there are some students currently residing Craige North and Parker, many are opting to leave campus to quarantine or isolate," the email states.
Students should refer to the University's COVID-19 dashboard, updated Friday at 9:20 am at the time of publication, for the most up to date information.
The email said the University is required to publicly report when a cluster of COVID-19 occurs in one location in a short period of time, and students will likely be notified of the clusters on Friday by Alert Carolina.
The director of the Orange County Health Department called for UNC to go fully remote for at least five weeks before school started, but a mixture of remote and in-person classes began at the University on Monday.
Representatives from University Media Relations did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.