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Students near COVID-19 cluster asked to 'stay-in-place' until receiving negative result

Students returning to on-campus housing for UNC's spring semester complete a required COVID-19 test upon entry on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

This semester, UNC students on residence hall floors with identified COVID-19 clusters go through an expedited testing protocol as soon as possible after a cluster has been identified. 

This protocol requires students to test at an in-dorm cluster response testing site and to “stay in place” until a negative result is received. 

So far, COVID-19 clusters have been identified in Avery, Carmichael, Morrison and Connor residence halls since the beginning of the semester. 

This “stay in place” guideline is now being explicitly advised in residence halls with clusters. Under this guidance, residents are asked to remain in their rooms, unless to pick up food or seek medical assistance. 

“It's always something that we've recommended, but now we're very specifically asking (students) to stay in place,” Campus Health Executive Director Ken Pittman said. “One of the reasons that we're able to strongly encourage that this time is because we're getting our test results back so soon.” 

Now, students will receive test results 24 to 36 hours after testing. COVID-19 cluster response tests are moved to the front of the line, Pittman said.

UNC first-year student and Morrison Residence Hall resident Katie Noble said she was tested around 3 p.m. at the rapid testing site Tuesday and received her negative results by 8 a.m. the next morning. Noble said the testing site was easy to get to and was efficient in getting results back.

“I really liked the pop-up location, which was super easy,” Noble said. “I was in and out in less than three minutes.” 

While staying in place, Noble said it felt up to the students to abide by this guidance. 

“I feel like there's not much more than they can do to enforce staying in place,” Noble said. “It honestly boils down to the student's decision. It's down to the student to be responsible and make sure that they're caring for themselves but also being mindful of others.”

Media Relations Manager Kate Maroney said that the stay-in-place policy is dependent on student compliance and the guidance will vary based on each cluster. 

“Guidance will vary based on the particular situation, there is no one-size-fits-all policy,” Maroney said in an email. “While any student who has had direct exposure to an infected student will need to quarantine, students who are not close contacts will be tested out of an abundance of caution and given specific instructions about how to limit their interactions.”

While in-person classes will be resuming on Feb. 8, Maroney said UNC is still in the process of discussing how stay-in-place protocol will apply to students with in-person classes. But, she said if it is necessary that students must avoid going to class, instructors will consider these absences excused. 

Staff writer Cameron Myers Milne contributed to the report.

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