UNC suddenly halts personal lessons after the coronavirus outbreak on campus

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Monday that it will cancel in-person bachelor's classes and switch completely to distance learning after the coronavirus spread rapidly across campus just two weeks after students returned for the fall semester.

University officials made the announcement just a week after classes began on the campus, which houses nearly 30,000 students. The entire UNC system houses more than 200,000 students, but university officials said the decision only applies to the Chapel Hill campus, which was one of the largest in the country that decided to hold in-person classes for the fall semester amid the pandemic.

The school said in a statement on Monday that its "positive" COVID-19 rate had jumped to 13.6% as of Sunday from 2.8% a week earlier. About 135 students and staff tested positive over the past week, according to the university's online coronavirus dashboard.

"As of this morning, we have tested 954 students and we have 177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, on and off campus," Kevin Juskiewicz, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dean Robert Plowen said in a statement. The university has only four rooms left for quarantine, according to the online coronavirus dashboard, which was updated earlier on Monday.

The statement stated that most of the students "who tested positive for the virus only suffered from" moderate "symptoms.

The university said that due to the high number of cases, the university will switch all in-person courses for undergraduate students on its Chapel Hill campus to distance learning by Wednesday. Courses in the colleges of graduate, vocational and health studies "will continue to be taught as is, or as directed by schools."

The university did not say whether distance learning will be in effect throughout the semester, but has offered to cancel residence hall reservations without penalty. Guskiewicz later on Monday stated in a phone call with faculty from Zoom that classes will remain distant during the semester and that it is "too early to tell" for the next semester, which begins in January.

"We understand the concerns and frustrations that these changes will raise with the many students and parents," Juskewitz and Plowen said in their statement. As much as we believe that we have worked hard to help create a healthy and safe living and learning environment on campus, we believe the current data represent an untenable situation. "

University and school administrators are monitoring the situation at the United Nations University and other universities that have already brought students back to campus for any indication of how and whether schools can safely resume personal learning.

Since last week, the university has revealed at least four clusters of injuries that have been returned to the halls of residence and fraternity, according to the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper.

Blouin added on a Zoom call that compliance with public health guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing on campus was "extraordinarily high".

"We have expectations that students will maintain compliance with the standards of our society, whether they are on campus or off campus, especially in Chapel Hill," he said. "But this is something that would have been very difficult for us to implement unless there was an actual quote or complaint regarding that student."

Plowen added that there are no "examples" of students being infected on the faculty or faculty members having infected students.

He said, "When we track contacts, we get these reports. What we found is that most of the transmissions were within the social sphere, and university life." Guskiewicz echoed Blouin's view that most of the spread occurred off campus, with "officials have very little control".

Now, as many students prepare to go home, Guskiewicz has encouraged all students who believe they have been exposed to the virus or an infected person to visit campus to receive the test. Kenneth Pitman, executives of campus health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said on the call that the university will provide tests for students who show symptoms, students who are asymptomatic and who have been in contact with an infected person. He added that the university would not conduct "group checks," adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "would not recommend this."

"I hate to give students a sense of false security based on a one-day-time score before they get home," said Pitman.

Dr. Joseph Iron, chair of the infectious disease department at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said students should isolate themselves and wear a mask at home with their parents in order to "be completely safe." He added that the test, in and of itself, did not protect people, although he said it would not advise students who seek the test.

Also in the call, officials refused to say categorically whether they would extend the university withdrawal deadline for the semester and refund tuition fees. Questions submitted to the call manager said the withdrawal deadline was 5 pm. on Monday.

Earlier Monday, Barbara Rimer, dean of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote in a statement that "it is time to get off the slope."

"After just one week of campus operations, with increasing numbers of gatherings and insufficient control over students' off-campus behavior (and others), it is time to get out of the slope," she said. We tried to make it work, but it is not working. "
And last month, a group of faculty wrote an open letter in the Charlotte Observer asking undergraduates to stay home "in order to protect yourself and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel. Hill and Carborough and your family and loved ones." ".

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