Many UNC students consider Chapel Hill their home — we attend classes, use public transportation, eat at local restaurants and get involved in community politics. While our lives revolve around the Town of Chapel Hill and our peers at UNC, it can be difficult to realize how our presence in the college town impacts permanent residents of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area.
Being a good neighbor is incredibly important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to student move-in, town officials expressed concerns about the influx of college students and potential for COVID-19 spreading throughout the community. Students would be sharing living spaces, grocery stores, restaurants and shops with permanent residents, thus increasing the risk for the virus to spread both on and off campus.
Furthermore, the potential for COVID-19 to worsen poses a major threat to local businesses, many of which have struggled to stay open as confirmed cases surge.
Since the semester began, the Chapel Hill Police Department has issued numerous citations to people violating COVID-19 safety procedures. Case numbers have also been on a rise since early August, when students returned to campus. Orange County reported 1,573 cases on August 10, which has increased to 2,632 cases as of Thursday. Nearly half of all the county’s reported cases are in the 18-24 age group, which encompasses most college-aged students.
UNC students have found amazing ways to remain connected and contribute to the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities. Students in the Gillings School of Global Public Health have found ways to provide COVID-19 aid, students contribute to local shelters and organizations they are passionate about and UNC Hospitals provides expansive resources for community members on and off campus. Some students even go on to participate in local politics and the Chapel Hill Town Council.
As amazing as these efforts are, you do not need to invest copious amounts of time or resources to be a good neighbor. Even though most students only live in Chapel Hill nine months out of the year, it is important to realize that we share a space with almost 60,000 permanent residents.
By socially distancing, wearing masks in public and not going to parties, students can reduce the spread of COVID-19 to their fellow students and members of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities. Students should be courteous to their neighbors in apartment complexes and townhouses, as they are not always other college students. This means keeping a clean living space and avoiding excessive noise.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, advocate for and stay up to date with community issues! These little steps can make a big difference in creating unity between UNC students and the local community.