The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

UNC reports 838 positive cases this week as students return to campus

Masks are provided at the entrance to Wilson Library, as well as most other university buildings, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Buy Photos Masks are provided at the entrance to Wilson Library, as well as most other university buildings, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As students and faculty enter the spring semester, UNC reported 838 positive cases among students from the week ending on Jan. 9 on its COVID-19 dashboard. During the week the University shut down campus in August 2020, it reported 505 positive cases among students.

UNC broke its one-day case record with 185 student cases on Friday.

The University is currently moving forward with in-person instruction, which was announced in its spring COVID-19 policies last week on Dec. 31, despite surges in the omicron variant.

The University had taken down its dashboard on Wednesday, saying it would resume updates the following Monday.

There were a total of 4,756 COVID-19 tests conducted at UNC through Campus Health or the Carolina Together Testing Program. Of the 3,777 student tests conducted at UNC, 505 were positive. Of the 979 employee tests conducted at UNC, 94 were positive.

Of the student tests conducted only at the University's testing sites, 13.3 percent were positive. Students reported positive tests conducted at other sources to the University, bringing the total number of student cases to 838 on the dashboard.

Prior-to-arrival PCR testing was required for unvaccinated students and all students living in campus residence halls this spring. The University advised that students with a positive COVID-19 result should not return to campus for five days, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This semester, testing through the Carolina Together Testing Program is available only by appointment via Hallpass. Symptomatic testing for students is available at Campus Health Services.

Faculty and staff have been told to seek testing through their community health care provider.

"I know that there are concerns about returning to on-campus life and learning during the increase of cases around the country," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a campuswide email Monday afternoon. "As I’ve said before, we continue to hear from many students, parents and faculty about the value they place in an on-campus living and learning environment and the importance of in-person instruction for student success."

The University is conducting largely in-person classes. Deans can consult with department chairpersons and faculty to draft, review and approve requests for temporary alterations to course instruction under guidance from the provost’s office.

There have not yet been COVID-19 clusters identified on campus this spring — five clusters total were identified during the fall semester. The University will update its dashboard with any clusters in residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses, as well as new case counts each weekday.

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.

“When you look at projections across the state or across the country, and if we follow the same trajectory, as what others have seen, in places like South Africa and the U.K., it does appear that there's going to be kind of an abrupt peak and an abrupt drop," Dr. Amir Barzin, medical director for UNC Health Virtual Care Services and director and lead physician of the Carolina Together Testing Program, said during a Faculty Executive Committee meeting Monday.

UNC epidemiologists have projected a peak of cases 14 to 25 days after the semester starts, with 850 to 1,650 cases per day. 

As of Monday, 94 percent of students and 90 percent of all employees have attested to vaccination. According to the dashboard, UNC's booster shot total is 7,495.

For more information on testing and isolation guidance for UNC students, read The Daily Tar Heel's policy breakdown.

@alliemkelly

university@dailytarheel.com

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