To the editor:
Last week’s article “Records from before reopening show experts warned UNC of COVID-19 outbreaks” was a fine example of clickbait journalism: a salacious and misleading headline intended to drive online engagement. The article is, at best, an incomplete picture of how the University planned for our students, faculty and staff to return. Heavily promoted to be the first in a series, the story is based on emails curiously cherry-picked from more than 8,000 pages of responsive records and show one moment in time in the University’s planning for the fall return. It doesn’t include the countless hours of planning or the input from thousands of students, faculty and staff who joined meetings, webinars and town halls to provide feedback on the plan.
By pulling emails from May and not following the full chain on how the University responded and used this guidance to inform our planning, The Daily Tar Heel has shared one paragraph of a very detailed book and sold it as a complete work on social media. What this article — and we would anticipate future articles in this series — doesn’t address is that the University planned for the fall return starting last spring with operational guidance from the UNC System, with input from public health officials across the state and with feedback from Carolina’s faculty, staff and students. These emails were one part of that planning process where we not only discussed the near certainty of COVID-19 cases on this campus, but how we planned to respond to them and how to mitigate the spread when they happened.
This narrative should not be sold as news, but as a recap of facts already well-noted in the public record. We have been publicly discussing our plans for positive cases all summer. From early on, we were advised there would be positive cases at Carolina, so we worked with departments and units across campus, including Campus Health and Housing, to prepare for those cases and quarantining any close contacts. Because of this guidance and planning, we reserved two dorms for isolation and quarantine and prepared how we would provide medical care and meals for those students.
Over the summer and even now, the COVID-19 virus is spreading and shifting in ways we as a society are still understanding. Once it was clear from the UNC System office that we must bring students back for in-person instruction, everyone at this University involved in the process worked tirelessly to create the best plan to try to give students the best on-campus experience while protecting the health and safety of our community. In dozens of public forums, Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Blouin said if the data supported an off-ramp, they would recommend we take such an action to the UNC System. On Aug. 17, we took that action promptly and decisively.
Vice Chancellor of Communications
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