UNC will resume classes as planned on Jan. 10 and will give discretion to deans to modify instruction modes for specific courses temporarily, the University announced in a campus-wide email Friday.
UNC was considering changes to spring semester operations given the rising cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 in Orange County and across the state. The North Carolina Department of Health and Services reported 18,500 new COVID-19 cases Thursday — its highest one-day total ever.
The University will keep its new COVID-19 testing requirements, which were announced on Dec. 22. They include prior-to-arrival testing for unvaccinated students and students living in residence halls, regardless of their vaccination status.
Testing through the Carolina Together Testing Program will be available by appointment only through Hallpass this semester, according to the Friday announcement.
"We will remain in consultation in case we need to modify this guidance to accommodate the evolving omicron outbreak," the email said. "We know the best experience for our students is on campus with in-person classes, and we want to do everything we can to make that possible."
Modes of instruction changes
Under guidance from the Provost’s Office, deans will consult with department chairpersons and faculty to draft, review and approve requests for temporary alterations to course instruction .
"We recognize that some students may be delayed in their return to campus," the email said. "And we are aware of circumstances that may prevent some faculty from delivering their previously planned in-person instruction in the initial weeks of the semester."
Students will be notified by faculty members if there any approved changes in delivery modes for specific classes.
The University will require prior-to-arrival testing for any unvaccinated students and for all students living in campus residence halls.
The prior to arrival COVID-19 tests will need to be be completed within a 72-hour window of arriving on campus, according to the email. Students required to complete prior-to-arrival testing will need to get a PCR test from a health care provider.
Students without access to a free community testing center can receive reimbursement from the University for up to $65 for their test with a receipt.
Once a COVID-19 test result is received, students need to upload the results to the Student Requirements Dashboard on ConnectCarolina.
Students with a positive COVID-19 result should not return to campus for five days, per Center for Disease Control guidance. Students isolate in their current location and notify their instructors if they will miss classes, the email said.
Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days outside of the Carolina Together Testing Program and Campus Health, and completed their required isolation, can upload documentation of a positive test result.
Prior-to-arrival testing is also recommended for all students returning in the spring semester.
Updated testing and isolation policies
Testing at the Carolina Together Testing Program will be available only by appointment through Hallpass, the email said. Symptomatic testing will also be available at Campus Health Services for students.
The University said faculty and staff should continue to seek testing through their community health care provider.
"We also understand from the Orange County Health Department and our public health experts that asymptomatic testing has limited utility given the short incubation period and high transmission rate for the omicron variant," the email said.
If students test positive for COVID-19 or exhibit symptoms, UNC asks that they remain at home until they are no longer symptomatic, or five days if they are asymptomatic — regardless of vaccination status.
The campus community can help limit the spread by avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask as much as possible, the email said.
"We anticipate we will have cases on campus and are relying on our community members to make good decisions in support of one another," the email said.
UNC COVID-19 Community Standards from the fall semester will remain in place, the email said.
The University is asking community members to mask in all public settings — including residence halls — and get fully vaccinated with a booster shot.
COVID-19 booster shots
Individuals who are 16 and older and who received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for a booster.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get the Pfizer or Moderna booster — which are both mRNA vaccines — if possible.
"While we cannot mandate the booster, we have consistently urged everyone to get the booster shot," the University said email said in an announcement last week. "The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing death and hospitalization from COVID-19, including the new variant."
Where can I get vaccinated?
COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available on a walk-in basis at Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy for students, faculty and staff. The clinics will be open for regular hours — Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — after the holidays on Jan. 3.
Students, faculty and staff should bring their insurance card to the pharmacy, as well as their COVID-19 vaccination card if they plan to receive a booster.
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