The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday January 20th

UNC updates its isolation and testing policies for spring 2022

This spring semester, as students return to campus and the omicron variant of COVID-19 rapidly spreads, UNC's safety strategy focuses on prior-to-arrival testing and giving deans the discretion to temporarily modify class instruction modes.

“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,” the University said in a Dec. 31 campus-wide email.

The University has also decided to limit campus testing for students and allow students who test positive for COVID-19 the option to isolate in their residence halls. There are no isolation residence halls on campus. 

On Sunday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported over 28,000 new COVID-19 cases in the state and a 31.2 daily percent positive. UNC recently paused updates to its COVID-19 dashboard, but will resume them on Jan. 10.

“ ... we acknowledge that there will likely be a high number of positive cases on campus, and we will continue to monitor and adjust operations as necessary,” a campus-wide email sent on Jan. 6 said.

Click below to read more about the University's COVID-19 protocols for the spring 2022 semester.

Students living on campus were required to submit proof of a prior-to-arrival PCR test taken 72 hours before returning to campus. This was also required for all unvaccinated students and strongly encouraged for students living off campus.

The University also said that testing through the Carolina Together Testing Program would change to appointment-only in the spring semester. Students can schedule an appointment on Hallpass.

"Asymptomatic testing has limited utility given the short incubation period and high transmission rate for the omicron variant," the Dec. 31 email said.

Meanwhile, testing for students with COVID-19 symptoms will be available at Campus Health. Faculty and staff should continue to get tested through their community health care provider.

If individuals test positive through an off-campus provider like Walgreens, CVS or a family doctor, they should communicate with Campus Health by emailing campushealth_records@unc.edu.

Another major change from fall semester policies is that students who test positive are encouraged to isolate at home, but they can also choose to isolate in their residence hall.

The University will not be providing separate housing or meal delivery for those who test positive. Shelf-stable items can be pre-ordered for pick up from Carolina Dining Services. Carolina Housing's COVID-19 isolation and quarantine information states that students who are isolating cannot eat or drink in the dining halls, but can use contactless delivery services to obtain meals.

The University asks that if students test positive or have symptoms, they isolate for five days if asymptomatic or until symptoms have disappeared, regardless of vaccination status.

This is in accordance with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states, "People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others."

Campus Health also states students in isolation should separate themselves from other people in their residence as much as possible, wear a medical grade mask when around other people and clean all high-touch surfaces daily.

The Approved Absence Policy has not changed, and any student that has to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 is eligible for a University Approved Absence for any classes they miss. Students can submit a request to the University Approved Absence Office.

"It is up to each student whether they request a UAA," UNC Media Relations said in a statement. "Not every student in isolation or quarantine may want or need them. For example, if they feel well enough to attend classes remotely, when available, or if a faculty member is working with them directly to excuse an absence without notification from the UAAO."

Campus Health will work directly with the UAAO to verify requests for an approved absence, Media Relations said.

If individuals are ordered to quarantine — determined to be a close contact and are unvaccinated — the University requires that they provide documentation from an off-campus provider.

Students who miss class due to testing, but are not required to quarantine or isolate by a medical professional will need to work directly with faculty members on their absence. This policy applies if students test negative for COVID and/or have other illnesses.

During the semester, students will be required to wear a mask in public settings, including classrooms, residence halls and other campus buildings.

On Jan. 3, the Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy resumed their regular hours for students to get their vaccine or booster shot. No appointment is necessary, and students or faculty should bring their insurance card, as well as their vaccination card for the booster.

Former Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Bob Blouin said in a December Faculty Executive Committee meeting that, other than the federal vaccine mandate for University employees — which is currently being challenged in court system — UNC doesn't have the authority to mandate vaccines and boosters.

University administration have urged members of the campus community to get fully vaccinated, including the booster shot.

"This guidance remains the best way to control the spread of the virus and the length and severity of illness," the Dec. 31 email said.

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