How colleges, universities across NC are handling fall semester amid increase in virus cases

How colleges, universities across NC are handling fall semester amid increase in virus cases
A student works outside Ehrighaus dormitory on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Following a cluster of COVID-19 cases, the university announced that it would cancel all in-person undergraduate learning starting on Wednesday as some students packed their belongings and left campus. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (Gerry Broome/AP)

CHARLOTTE — Universities across North Carolina have decided to change their fall plans after COVID-19 cases continued to rise on campuses.

Some colleges already had students return to in-person learning before deciding to switch to virtual classes. This left many students moving out of campus housing just weeks after moving in.

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Several universities have reported COVID-19 clusters at multiple residential halls and other student housing.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more cases that are deemed in close proximity in location, and a location is defined as a single residential hall or dwelling.

Concerns swirl over spread of COVID-19 as clusters pop up at universities across the country

>> Below is a breakdown of COVID-19 cases and class changes for universities across North Carolina:

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte announced it is delaying the start of in-person instruction by three weeks for the fall semester. In-person instruction will begin Oct. 1.

In a letter addressed to Niner Nation, UNCC Chancellor Sharon Gaber said classes will still begin as planned Sept. 7, but they will only be offered online.

For more on UNCC’s fall semester plans, click here.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has confirmed multiple clusters at on-campus and off-campus housing. As a result, the university has switched to remote classes for the fall semester.

Just weeks after students returned to campus for in-person learning, the university decided to switch to virtual classes. UNC said classes will resume Aug. 26 to give time for students to move out.

The university also said students will have the opportunity to cancel housing requests with no penalty. Residents who have hardships, such as lack of access to reliable internet access, international students or student-athletes will have the option to remain on campus.

The university has reported clusters at the following on-campus and off-campus housing:

  • Avery residence hall
  • Craige residence hall
  • Alpha Delta Pi sorority house
  • Carmichael residence hall
  • Morrison residence hall
  • Zeta Psi fraternity house
  • Hinton James residence hall
  • Sigma Nu fraternity
  • Ehringhaus Community
  • Granville Towers

The university said individuals in the clusters are isolating and receiving medical monitoring.

UNC-Chapel Hill cancels in-person classes after 4 coronavirus clusters in 1 week

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson announced that students will have to leave their on-campus housing by September 6. Woodson cited rising cases in residence halls, off-campus apartments and Greek houses as the reason for the decision to close student housing.

Students will receive prorated refunds for their fall semester housing and dining, and students with special circumstances can apply for waivers to stay on campus.

“We hoped and strived to keep residence halls open and safe to best serve our students,” Woodson wrote in a letter. “However, the rapid spread and increasing rate of positive cases have made our current situation untenable.”

All undergraduate in-person instruction will shift to remote learning after hundreds of students had to be quarantined due to the coronavirus.

The switch will remain in place through the rest of the fall semester, according to Woodson.

“Battling the spread of COVID-19 is a challenging endeavor even when everyone is practicing safety measures. Unfortunately, the actions of a few are jeopardizing the health and safety of the larger community,” he said.

The NC State Athletic Department announced the football team’s season-opener against Virginia Tech has been moved to September 26. It was originally scheduled for September 12 and has now been shifted to the teams’ bye week due to a COVID-19 cluster among athletes, according to the Associated Press.

This comes days after NC State paused all athletic activities due a cluster of 27 positive coronavirus cases.

The Wolfpack will now open the 2020 season at home against Wake Forest on September 19. The athletic department will share more information on stadium capacity at a later date.

“We appreciate the ACC and Virginia Tech working together in partnership to move this game to a mutual open weekend,” said NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan. “There’s no blueprint for what we’re all trying to navigate and we are grateful for everyone’s collaboration to make this work.”

Below is a breakdown of COVID-19 clusters reported at on-campus housing and off-campus housing, including Greek houses:

  • Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity house, currently with 13 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Delta Zeta Sorority house, currently with 28 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Sigma Nu Fraternity house, currently with 26 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Delta Gamma Sorority house, currently with 15 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Sigma Kappa Sorority house, currently with 6 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house, currently with seven positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority house, currently with 7 positive cases, located off-campus
  • Alpha Delta Pi Sorority House, currently with 7 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • Kappa Delta Sorority House, currently with 6 positive cases, located in Greek Village
  • The university reported a cluster connected with two private residences located near Park and Bagwell Avenues in Raleigh. Between the two residences, they currently have five positive cases between them that have been linked through contact tracing.
  • A cluster of COVID-19 cases was also reported in an off-campus housing located near Clark Avenue in Raleigh.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University announced Sunday that it will move undergraduate classes online for the remainder of the fall semester starting Aug. 26.

This decision comes after the university has identified multiple clusters of COVID-19 cases within residence halls on campus.

ECU residence halls will begin the move-out process this week and end it Aug. 30. The university will work with international students, student-athletes, and hardship cases who apply to continue to live on campus.

The university will offer prorated refunds to students for campus housing and dining.

“This decision to move online for the fall semester was not made lightly,” Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said. “We are appreciative of the ongoing support and approval of our plan to move forward by UNC System President Peter Hans and public health experts. We believe this decision is best for the well-being of our entire campus community.”

Below is a breakdown of reported COVID-19 cases at ECU campus housing:

  • Five positive cases related to Garrett Hall
  • Five positive cases in Fletcher Hall
  • Six positive cases reported in Fleming Hall
  • Seven positive cases in Tyler Hall
  • 10 positive cases related to Greene Hall
  • Five positive cases associated with Alpha Gamma Delta sorority
  • Seven positive cases at Clement Residence Hall
  • 10 people involved with the football team tested positive
  • At least 17 students tested positive at the Gateway West Residence Hall on College Hill
NC health leaders update guidance for colleges, universities trying to curb virus spread

Johnson & Wales University

Johnson & Wales University and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte have teamed up to support students returning to campus during the pandemic. Nearly 30 students enrolled for the fall term that begins on Monday, Aug. 31 will live in DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte hotel rooms.

“As part of our protocols to minimize exposure and spread of COVID, JWU has reduced not only our classroom and lab capacities, but also the number of students living in our residence halls,” Cheryl Richards, Ph.D., campus president, said. “Our residence halls would typically house 1,260 students each year. This fall, we are allowing only one student per room which has dropped our capacity so we needed to think creatively about a safe and clean alternative to accommodate the overflow. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte’s convenient location adjacent to our property, along with newly adopted protocols for hotel cleanliness and disinfection, presented the perfect solution.”

The DoubleTree will provide weekly housekeeping and cleaning. The company recently launched Hilton CleanStay, a new industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection. JWU student rooms, and all guest rooms, are cleaned with Lysol disinfecting spray and upgraded protocols include an increased focus on disinfecting high touch areas.

“We’re proud to be part of the Charlotte community and thrilled we can partner with Johnson & Wales to help students safely return to school and provide them with peace of mind with Hilton CleanStay,” said Bill DeLoache, the general manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte. “This program, created in collaboration with RB, maker of Lysol, builds upon the already high standards of housekeeping and hygiene at our properties worldwide, and JWU students will see the same focus on cleanliness that is visible to Hilton guests throughout their experience, from the guest room, to the fitness center to other public spaces.”