Parents call for UNC to require mass COVID-19 testing ahead of spring semester

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — On Wednesday, nearly 1,152 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in North Carolina.

The number of COVID-19 cases is still on the rise as universities and colleges make plans for the upcoming spring semester.

University leaders at UNC-Chapel Hill announced last week that classes for the spring semester will start on Tuesday, January 19.

However, plans for housing, modes of instruction, and possible campus-wide testing are still being decided.

UNC parent Rachna Varia said she would like nothing more than for her daughter to get to go back to campus in the spring.

“It’s been tough, she’s doing college from her bedroom and that’s challenging,” Varia said.

However, she argues the only safe way to send students back campus is to make sure all students, faculty, and staff are tested before they come back.

“I just think it’s a no-brainer to get everyone tested before they come in,” Varia said. “I also think they need to do routine testing throughout the semester.”

Varia is not alone.

CBS 17 did an open records request and obtained all of the comments submitted to the Carolina Together website from late May to early August.

Dozens of parents, students, and faculty had called for the university to test everyone before they came back to campus for the fall semester.

One parent said, “It is reckless to not test students upon arrival. This cannot end well and you know it.”

“Other schools are making it work, and so there’s no reason that Carolina shouldn’t be able to make it work,” Varia said.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Duke university mass tested all of their students who will be living on campus or who will be on campus for academic purposes.

Duke also does random pool testing on a weekly basis and they have been able to keep their positivity rate down to 0.14 percent.

The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, a public university comparable to the size of UNC, tested all of their students living on campus at the beginning of the fall semester.

A spokesperson with UofSC said they have been able to keep their COVID-19 numbers low enough so they could still continue in-person classes.

UofSC officials said it is a significant investment, but they said robust testing is the only way to responsibly return to campus for face-to-face classes.

While officials with UNC said they are still working on plans for the spring semester, they said they will be releasing those details soon.

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