The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday March 29th

Editorial: UNC's COVID-19 and vaccination protocols fall short

<p>DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits on the quad after receiving a vaccine.</p>
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DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits on the quad after receiving a vaccine.

As of last week, Meredith College is requiring all students to be vaccinated beginning this spring semester. UNC still has yet to do the same. 

The decision was made after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gained FDA approval, in the interest of maintaining the safety of students and employees. Across the nation, schools are increasingly implementing similar COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements.

Other universities in North Carolina, such as Duke University, have gone even further. After more than 300 COVID-19 cases were reported within the span of a week — many likely a result of off-campus social events — Duke’s Student Government asked the city to get involved in enforcing a popular local bar, Shooters II, to obey occupancy limits and the North Carolina mask mandate. After multiple complaints about a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions being taken in the establishment, the bar shut down indefinitely.

Duke was able to identify, and subsequently slow, this positive spike utilizing their mandatory COVID-19 testing program for all students.

UNC has a similar social student culture to Duke. And although UNC’s current COVID-19 positivity rate is only 1.67 percent as of Tuesday, our lack of a more widespread testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated students means it’s almost inevitable our actual positive case rate is higher than what is reported.

An incomplete picture of the data regarding positive tests leads to an inability for the administration to adequately know to what extent COVID-19 safety precautions need to be handled moving forward. 

Furthermore, an incomplete picture puts students, staff and employees at risk among a population inundated with potentially uncontrolled and undetected positive cases.

UNC refuses to put measures such as a vaccination mandate or a more widespread COVID testing mandate in place to protect its "Carolina Family."

Given that UNC is famous for its public health programs, to not pave the way for extensive testing and a vaccine mandate seems illogical.

As of last week, UNC is ranked fifth among public schools nationwide by the U.S. News and World Report. The schools ranking higher than UNC are University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia.

These four public schools all required their students to be vaccinated before fall of this year, and they are all above UNC. 

UNC claims it cannot currently implement a vaccine mandate because it does not have the legal authority to do so.

But beyond vaccine mandates, there’s no reason why UNC can’t implement a more regimented testing program for all students. Last semester, UNC required testing once or twice a week for students, depending on their residence. Given the rise of the delta variant, a mandate is crucial for health and safety, yet remains absent.

Until UNC steps up its COVID-19 testing requirements or requires a vaccine, it can no longer consider other prestigious universities peer institutions.


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