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Covid-19 cases prompt University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to cancel in-person instruction

Aug. 17, 2020
Most classes on campus will switch to online-only as of Wednesday

A week after it began in-person classes for students on campus, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has decided to move all undergraduate classes online starting Wednesday because 130 more students tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the university's abrupt reversal regarding student instruction comes after four Covid-19 clusters were reported in three days in residence halls, apartments and a fraternity house.

“As of this morning, we have tested 954 students (last week) and have 177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, both on and off campus,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin said in a news release. “So far, we have been fortunate that most students who have tested positive have demonstrated mild symptoms.”

Graduate, professional and health affairs students taking in-person classes will continue with those, university officials say.

The administration expects more students will want to move off campus with the switch to remote learning, the university says, but students without reliable Internet service, international students, student-athletes and those with other needs, can remain.

The decision to move classes online “has come entirely too late,” says the NC Public Service Workers Union, which sued the university system last week on behalf of housekeepers, professors and other staff.

Orange County, N.C., Health Director Quintana Stewart says the university should consider virtual classes for the entire fall semester and limit on-campus housing to at-risk students and those with true needs, including international students and low-income students.

Barbara Rimer, dean of the university’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, also is calling for the university to move to online-only classes.

“We have tried to make this work, but it is not working,” she wrote on her blog.

State data shows Orange County’s new daily cases have been climbing since Aug. 12 — nine days after students officially started moving back into campus housing.

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