CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 400 faculty members at UNC-Chapel Hill are signing a petition to move classes online for at least the next month as COVID-19 cases surge.
The petition calls on Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin to delay in-person classes by four to six weeks until COVID-19 metrics improve.
On Monday, there were 15,000 more COVID-19 cases reported in North Carolina and there are currently around 2,500 people are hospitalized with the virus.
“Why are we rushing back in the middle of an enormous surge in the country?” said Maria DeGuzman, an English and comparative literature professor at UNC.
DeGuzman is one of the professors who helped launch the petition.
Even though masks are required indoors, and students must either attest that they’ve been vaccinated or get COVID-19 tests weekly, DeGuzman said she is concerned that there will be a lack of social distancing in the classroom, as in-person classes will be operating at full capacity.
“There’s no way we can distance even 3 feet,” DeGuzman said.
DeGuzman said that delaying in-person classes by four to six weeks will allow the university to have more time to get people vaccinated.
Right now, 86 percent of the student population has attested that they have received their COVID-19 vaccine, which still leaves 14 percent that have either not been vaccinated or not yet reported their status to the university.
University officials said 83 percent of faculty and staff have been vaccinated.
DeGuzman also said a delay will allow more time for the COVID-19 metrics to come down.
Currently, there are 2,466 people hospitalized with COVID, which is 2.5 times more than the number of people who were hospitalized for COVID-19 this same week last year when UNC-Chapel Hill was sending everyone home.
“I don’t see why we want to risk death, disability, and illness when if we took a block of time, four to six weeks, and we just stayed online, we could get the situation under better control,” DeGuzman said.
The petition says UNC’s plan for the fall semester doesn’t include an option for remote learning but calls for full classrooms with no physical distancing, near-full dorm rooms, football games with no masks and full to capacity dining halls.
“This is a formula for disaster,” the petition says.
With classes set to start at UNC on Wednesday, CBS 17 asked university officials if it’s possible that classes could be moved online.
UNC officials said Guskiewicz addressed concerns about the fall semester on Aug. 11 and those plans remain unchanged.
“I want everyone to know we’re committed to an in-person learning environment. Our students need it for their academics and for their mental health and wellbeing. I know there’s still uncertainty out there, but we are confident that we can get through this semester successfully and safely together,” the chancellor said.
Guskiewicz said following consultation with infectious disease experts and the county health department, it is possible to do both in-person learning and remain safe.
“We will keep evaluating the data and discussing it with our campus experts daily. We’ll take all the necessary precautions, and we believe that we are ready,” he said.
All UNC students, faculty and staff report that they are vaccinated or test weekly. Everyone is also required to wear masks when indoors on campus.
In a statement, UNC officials said university leaders can adjust safety measures at any time.