Two weeks into the fall semester, UNC has identified five COVID-19 clusters on campus.
The University uses the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a cluster — five or more COVID-19 cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiological linkage between cases, according to the Carolina Together website.
For plausible epidemiological linkage, NCDHHS guidance states the local health department should verify that cases were present in the same setting during the same time period, the timing fits with the timing of likely exposure and that there is no other more likely source of exposure for the identified cases.
This time last year, UNC had nine clusters. On Aug. 20, two days after the start of fully remote classes, the University announced all classes would be paused on Aug. 24 and 25 to give students the chance to adjust to the new changes to the semester.
By Aug. 24, 2020, the University’s COVID-19 positivity rate had surpassed 30 percent. The current positivity rate is 2.43 percent.
Here's a timeline of the clusters UNC has announced so far:
Aug 11: Eshelman School of Pharmacy cluster
UNC identified a COVID-19 cluster Aug. 11 related to an outdoor event at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
The cluster had six active coronavirus cases.
The cluster announcement came one day after Orange County reinstated its indoor mask mandate, citing a rise in COVID-19 and delta variant cases.
Aug 21: Avery Residence Hall cluster
The University identified a COVID-19 cluster in Avery Residence Hall on Aug. 21. There were five active cases in the cluster.
On Aug. 20, the University deployed an on-site testing team for two hours in Avery because four residents had tested positive for COVID-19 since move-in began — according to a Carolina Housing email sent to Avery residents.
For the Avery cluster, the University worked together with the Orange County Health Department to conduct on-site testing to quickly mitigate COVID-19 spread.
But on-site testing is not done for all cases at UNC, according to UNC Media Relations. Campus Health evaluates each situation with OCHD to determine the best response.
Aug 31: multiple clusters
On Tuesday, the University identified three clusters. Ehringhaus, Parker and Hinton James residence halls each have five to six confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a Carolina Together cluster notification.
The three epidemiologically linked clusters were identified by floor in the Carolina Together cluster notification — the third floor of Ehringhaus, the third floor of Parker and the seventh and eighth floors of Hinton James respectively.
The clusters were identified after UNC implemented an early testing process for students on specific floors of residence halls, according to the cluster notification.
All individuals in these clusters are isolating and receiving medical monitoring, according to an announcement from the University. Campus Health and the Orange County Health Department are reaching out to close contacts through contact tracing.
The University said that students on these floors do not need to seek additional testing if they were tested in the past week and not displaying symptoms.
Some faculty members have been vocal about their concerns for the fall semester.
500 faculty and staff members have signed a petition to move classes online for the first four to six weeks of the semester.
An open letter, titled “The Risks are Too High,” put forward by the signatories expressed concern surrounding the recent increase in delta variant cases, along with the University’s lack of planning — all without a vaccine mandate or consistent mask mandates.
At a Faculty Executive Committee meeting Tuesday, Chairperson Mimi Chapman discussed faculty concerns over the lack of a University offramp plan. But UNC does not plan to send students home or move to fully remote classes.
According to the UNC's COVID-19 dashboard, there have been a total of 468 coronavirus cases in August — 399 students and 69 employees.
As of Monday, 89 percent of UNC students have attested that they have been vaccinated, according to the dashboard.
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