NC health leaders update guidance for colleges, universities trying to curb virus spread

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina health leaders released updated guidance for the state’s universities Friday as they work to stop the spread of the coronavirus both on and off campus.

The guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services covers several topics from housing to group gatherings and urges universities to be aggressive in their efforts to protect students and staff.

State health leaders said colleges and universities should be requiring and enforcing mask policies, limiting on-campus housing and closing communal dining settings like the cafeteria.

Since students have returned to campuses, viral spread has increased drastically. NCDHHS said social gatherings should be limited whether the students are on or off campus.

Off-campus parties have been a hot spot for the spread of COVID-19. Police had to shut down at least 20 parties, including one with nearly 400 people in attendance, during East Carolina University’s opening weekend.

North Carolina State University announced Thursday that it will be shifting its undergraduate classes online with the school’s chancellor attributing the switch to “those who did not take personal responsibility.” In the last few days, the university said it has identified at least five COVID-19 clusters in off-campus and Greek houses that can be traced to parties and behavior that defies the governor’s orders.

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UNC-Chapel Hill also shifted to remote learning after several COVID-19 clusters popped up when students returned to campus.

Despite clusters popping up on other campuses, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has decided to stay the course and return for in-person instruction. Students don’t return to campus until Sept. 7, but there are already rumblings about possible parties.

Freshman Joy Yochem was disappointed to hear that some of her peers could be planning parties in the middle of the pandemic and before classes even start.

A post on social media spoke of small get togethers of more than 30 people at a campus fraternity.

UNCC has said large gatherings would violate the student code and could lead to criminal charges.

“They should really rethink their stance on how they’re conducting themselves during this pandemic,” Yochem said. “This spreads beyond just campus. It’s greater Charlotte community.”

Members of the Student Government Association met with UNCC’s Chancellor on Friday asking for virtual classes and many are hoping any changes are announced soon.

“I just got here from California. What’s gonna happen to me and other students who made living arrangements for me if we get kicked out” asked recent UNCC transfer and senior Madeline Sesma. “What are we gonna do, where are we gonna go?”