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UNC will lift its indoor mask mandate on March 7, the University announced in a campus-wide email on Wednesday.

This means masks will be optional in classrooms, residence halls, libraries, athletic venues and performance spaces. They will still be required on Chapel Hill Transit buses and in all health care settings — including Campus Health and UNC Health.

The UNC decision follows announcements from both the UNC System and Board of County Commissioners to lift mask mandates next week.

This will be the first time the University is lifting the mask mandate that has been a part of its COVID-19 Community Standards for over a year.

"We will continue to monitor and follow our local health officials and public health experts and will be ready to respond to conditions as they evolve," the email said.

The University also announced it would change the vendor that processes test samples from the Carolina Together Testing Program on March 14. The vendor is shifting from the Carolina Together testing lab to Radeas Labs, a third party vendor.

Also starting March 14, testing hours will be reduced to the following:

  • Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

University mask policies

the University said in a campus-wide email last Friday that if the county lifts its mask mandate, the University would follow suit.

“​​One of the reasons we have been able to mitigate spread on our campus, even during the omicron variant earlier this year, is the adherence to the COVID-19 Community Standards by so many of you each day,” the Feb. 25 email said.

The University moved to fully in-person instruction in February, writing in a campus wide-email that classes should be held according to "the mode of instruction that was advertised at the time of student registration." 

The UNC System also announced last Friday that its institutions should make wearing masks indoors optional by March 7.

Following the UNC System announcement, Appalachian State University announced it would lift its indoor mask requirement on the same date. 

N.C. State University stopped requiring masking in most campus indoor spaces as of Monday.

Orange County mask policies

Guidelines and discussion around masking have been shifting recently at both the state and local levels.

Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Feb. 17 press conference that he encouraged schools and local governments to end mask mandates on March 7.

The day after Cooper's announcement, Orange County leaders announced they would keep the county's indoor mask mandate in place.

However, Board of Orange County Commissioners Chairperson Renee Price announced in a board meeting Tuesday that that county would lift its indoor mask mandate on March 7 at 5 p.m.

The Orange County Board of Education unanimously voted to lift indoor school mask mandates in a meeting shortly after Cooper's recommendation.

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COVID-19 testing and vaccine mandate 

The University and UNC System have not yet mandated COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters on campus. But both UNC System President Peter Hans and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz have said that a vaccine mandate would require approval from the North Carolina Commission for Public Health. 

The commission has yet to announce a vaccine mandate.

According to UNC's COVID-19 dashboard, 93 percent of students, 93 percent of faculty and 87 percent of staff have attested to vaccination as of Wednesday. The booster shot total is 13,320. 

For the week ending on March 1, the 7-day student positivity rate is 2.8 percent, based on campus testing for students and employees.

"This time has brought stress, grief and uncertainty to our lives, and that continues even today for many," the campus-wide email said. "Please know that we appreciate everything you have done on an individual and collective basis to keep our community safe while we have continued to accomplish our mission over the past two years."

@alliemkelly I @livvreilly

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