Photos of UNC students drinking from Old Well amid pandemic draws criticism

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – UNC-Chapel Hill students lined up at the Old Well to take a sip on the first day of classes, despite COVID-19 concerns.

Some of the students wore masks while waiting in line to drink from the water fountain. But after the school posted pictures on social media, critical comments started pouring in.

Most students CBS 17 spoke with said they are happy the tradition is back.

“I did take a sip, for the tradition. (I’m) vaccinated, yes,” said junior Lizzie McIntosh.

Shreena Patel and her friends said they felt comfortable due to the vaccine. After drinking from a water bottle last year due to the pandemic, the group of sophomores said they were happy to experience sipping from the well first-hand.

“We’ve all heard about, like, oh, waiting in the well, like starting at 12 o’clock and waiting for like hours. We kind of got an experience because, personally, last semester I didn’t really get the campus feel,” Patel said. “I just felt more close to UNC.”

Abdulrahman Sarsour, a junior, said the tradition should not have happened this semester. He said he wished more students took a picture and not a sip.

“The actual drinking from the fountain, I think, is posing a risk to UNC right now, and I would like to stay on campus for the remainder of the year, but if this behavior continues it’s not just gonna be the fountain,” Sarsour said.

According to the UNC COVID-19 dashboard, the campus has a 1.7 percent positivity rate for the week, with 12 new student cases reported Wednesday.

The university said it consulted health experts first, writing in a statement:

“As the University returns to an on-campus experience this semester, the Old Well remained on and functional for students to take a sip for good luck with their academics – a time-honored tradition at Carolina. The University consulted with public health experts prior to the event, and the experts agreed the tradition was fine to proceed, as there is little to no evidence of surface transmission of the coronavirus. Students that chose to participate were encouraged to wear a mask while waiting in line and University ambassadors were on hand to support physical distancing. For students who wished to participate in the tradition but did not want to wait in line, bottled “well water” was made available at multiple locations on campus.” – University Spokesperson Pace Sagester

Starting Monday, students who are not vaccinated will have to get a COVID-19 test twice a week, instead of just once. According to the university, 87 percent of students said they are vaccinated.

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