UNC-Chapel Hill Students Request Stricter COVID Guidelines
Published September 16, 2021
On September 3, the UNC-Chapel Hill student government called for a press conference with the chancellor and provost to discuss COVID guidelines and transparency, but the university leaders did not make an appearance.
UNC-Chapel Hill has returned to on-campus learning this semester after a year and a half of online and hybrid learning. In response to the ongoing pandemic, guidelines were put in place to safely remain on campus. However, despite the guidelines, the low positivity rate of 1.84 percent for COVID testing (as of 9/15/2021), and astoundingly high vaccination rates, with 93 percent of students vaccinated, 94 percent of faculty vaccinated, and 82 percent of staff vaccinated—students remain unsatisfied. In the meeting which was held at the Carolina Student Union, students called for more transparency with COVID data and stricter guidelines, such as:
* Implementing weekly COVID testing for everybody—regardless of vaccination status or symptomatic status
* An outdoor mask mandate
* The option for classes to go hybrid/virtual
* An increase of COVID testing sites
* A vaccine mandate
The absent university leaders responded to the press conference with a statement, in which they called the press conference a “publicity stunt” that “grossly misrepresented the University’s detailed, multi-layered safety plans.”
Since the start of the semester, some UNC guidelines have shifted from what they were at the beginning:
* An indoor mask mandate was in place for everybody, except for when instructors lectured—now instructors must wear masks at all times.
* COVID testing for unvaccinated students increased from once a week to twice a week
* COVID clusters are now being reported not just per building, but also per floor level in each building
* And recently, some instructors have reported that they have been asked to either assign seats in the classroom, and/or have a system in place for contact tracing in the classroom
On September 9, a “Formal Notice” email from the Carolina Together Testing Program Team (CTTP) was sent to students. Markedly, the notice mentioned the vast difference between the symptomatic and close contact tracing positivity rates in the university (4.9 percent) versus the state (13 percent). Additionally, it reported that the university’s positivity rate dropped in one week from 2.45 percent to 1.07 percent. The notice also described how the majority of students who have tested positive for COVID-19 have experienced mild symptoms, while some have had moderate symptoms. It also noted that there have been no reports of student hospitalization due to COVID-19.
Natalia Mayorga is a psychology student at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Martin Center intern.