The Faculty Executive Committee voiced growing concerns about the spread of the BA.2 COVID-19 variant on campus during its Monday meeting.
- Executive Vice Provost Ronald Strauss said that within the past 45 days, the BA.2 variant has grown in presence across the nation. Nearly three-fourths of COVID-19 cases nationally are stemming from the new variant, he said.
- Strauss said most of the people infected are not becoming mortally ill. The BA.2 variant seems to cause increased symptoms over some earlier variants, he said.
- The seven-day campus positivity rate was 33 students three weeks ago and 77 students two weeks ago, Strauss said. Last week, he said, 401 students tested positive.
- The University announced in an April 6 campuswide email that it will no longer update its COVID-19 dashboard.
- What began as a slow increase rapidly peaked — a result of UNC basketball game watch parties, students rushing Franklin Street and other factors involving high-capacity settings, Strauss said.
- “The other piece that’s a little bit perplexing about this is that we also know that among those 401 students that were positive, 87 percent are confirmed vaccinated,” Strauss said. “So what we’ve learned is that vaccination doesn’t prevent COVID, vaccination prevents deadly outcomes.”
- Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman said there may be miscommunication occurring, because while UNC community members read about COVID-19 data on social media, they are not necessarily being updated on information pertaining to campus.
- Eric Muller, a professor in the School of Law, said he is concerned about the University mask policy in light of rising COVID-19 positivity numbers.
- The statistics shared in the meeting contained “different information from what most of the campus was going off of when they made their initial, basic decision about whether to take the mask off or not,” he said.
- Strauss said he is meeting with infectious disease experts on Tuesday for further discussion.
- Provost Chris Clemens opened discussion for feedback on UNC’s revamped institutional integrity and risk management policy.
- Joy Renner, director of the Division of Radiologic Science in the UNC School of Medicine, said it is important that the policy is revised in a standardized format and is searchable.
- Deb Aikat, an associate professor in the journalism school, spoke about the University’s inquiry into the emails and hard-drive backups of the school's faculty. Recently released records show that the University might have requested access to over 20 faculty members’ emails and hard-drive backups while inquiring about a potential leak of the donor agreement between Water Hussman Jr., UNC and the journalism school.
- The situation may have caused faculty members to lose trust in the University inquiry process, he said.
- “You have inherited a complex issue,” Aikat said to Clemens.
- Clemens said that emails should be a part of the Privacy of Electronic Information Policy review to ensure clarity and transparency between the University, faculty and staff.
- Chapman said it would be best for Clemens to speak with faculty and staff at the journalism school to address the lack of trust.
- “I think trust is one of the most difficult things to rebuild in this policy, and while we work with the investigations office, you need to trust this office, which means you need a well-written policy,” Clemens said.
- The FEC will reconvene during the summer.
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