When talking about Chapel Hill's COVID-19 response and referencing the 5th and 6th COVID-19 clusters at UNC dormitories and fraternity houses, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the Town is not allowed to fine or cite people if they are not wearing a mask.
Chapel Hill Chief of Police Chris Blue said the department is focusing on education over enforcement for social distancing violations.
“Criminalizing those behaviors didn’t feel right,” he said. “What we did do with (UNC Police) Chief Perry was engage in more visible neighborhood patrol in neighborhoods most closely adjacent to campus.”
Despite not having a mandate for mask-wearing in Chapel Hill, Hemminger said local businesses were asking for enforcement of masks from the Town because they did not want to lose customers who refused.
“Employees were calling our offices because customers were having fights in stores,” Hemminger said. “We can’t enforce them to wear one, but businesses started putting up mask signs and gave access to masks."
She said retail and hotel sectors in Chapel Hill have also suffered major revenue losses, as 40 percent of outstanding rent bills are from businesses.
“We have our communities working on recovery as we find ways to let businesses survive and come back during COVID-19,” Hemminger said.
At the meeting, she said the Town is committed to talking through the needs and expectations of the community, which includes food distribution, emergency housing and scholastic community centers in partnership with the YMCA.
Maian Adams, chief of external relations and advocacy for the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, said students at UNC shouldn't return to campus without baseline testing and enhanced surveillance.
For a spring reopening, Hemminger said Orange County will offer testing to on and off-campus students who are symptomatic as well as asymptomatic.
Abigail Panter, senior associate dean of undergraduate education for the College of Arts and Sciences, then addressed proposed modes of instruction for the spring semester. The academic planning advisory subgroup derived a student-centered approach, which includes determining the instruction mode, adding additional class details and providing syllabuses to students.
For an in-person instruction mode, on-campus and remote learners would attend classes and exams on specific dates and times throughout the semester at least one day per week. Some instruction will be delivered virtually, either synchronously or asynchronously, according to Panter’s presentation.
For a remote semester, students would meet synchronously and asynchronously or entirely asynchronously. Regardless of the mode, students are expected to meet deadlines throughout the semester.
Collyn Smith, a junior majoring in public policy, raised concerns of transparent costs while registering for classes. Smith said he believes there should be a clear and upfront cost of a course, including textbooks.
“Finances should never be a barrier to a student’s education,” he said. “Especially now, finances are really stressed for a lot of people.”
Todd Nicolet, vice provost for digital and lifelong learning, said faculty will work with seniors on mixed modes of instruction to help them fulfill degree requirements.
Taking into account the concerns for a safe spring semester, Hemminger said the community is scared.
“(People) don't want to see clusters and spread for the spring 2021,” Hemminger said. “Businesses are concerned if they don't come back, so we hear both sides.”