CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill started their first day of classes for the spring semester Monday amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the area.
According to UNC’s COVID-tracking dashboard that was updated Monday afternoon, there were 1,002 new cases of COVID from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9. The current positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 12.62 percent.
University officials tell CBS 17 they are taking steps to reduce the spread amid the new omicron variant of COVID-19.
For instance, they are encouraging students to get vaccinated, and masks are required indoors on campus.
Also, all students who live on campus and students who live off-campus, who are not vaccinated, were required to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus.
As far as the mode instruction for classes this spring, the university left it up to the deans of each department to decide if certain classes should be in person or remote due to the rising concern with the omicron variant.
Most of the students CBS 17 spoke with on Monday said their classes are in person and some said they are fine with this.
“I think it’s good to allow them if that’s what the professor is comfortable with, if we’re all wearing masks, and if people are staying home when they’re sick,” said Lainey Miller, a UNC senior.
However, some students said they think the university should have allowed students to decide if they wanted to attend classes remotely.
“I really think it would be better if they had a hybrid option,” said Michael Spragley, a junior.
Some students on campus Monday told CBS 17 that they are concerned the safety measures that are in place are not enough to protect students and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For instance, UNC has reduced the COVID testing that’s available to students.
The university is no longer requiring unvaccinated students to be tested on a weekly basis and students must schedule appointments if they want an asymptomatic test. Walk-in appointments are no longer available.
This comes as the university has said there is “limited utility” when testing for the omicron variant due to its short incubation period and high transmission rate.
UNC senior Avery Clark said he thinks COVID testing should still be more readily available to students.
“I remember last semester I could walk in anytime and get what I needed,” Clark said. “I feel like since there’s going to be a lot more people getting COVID, we just don’t have as much stuff as we used to have, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
There will also be a limited number of quarantine and isolation rooms available to students.
If a student is either exposed or tests positive for COVID, they are encouraged to go home or quarantine in their dorm room on campus.
University officials told CBS 17 in an email that they have a limited number of quarantine and isolation dorms for emergencies only, and they are encouraging students to isolate and quarantine at home if possible.
“It’s definitely a bit anxiety-inducing being here,” said Elliana Alexander, a UNC senior.
Alexander said already a lot of her friends have either tested positive for COVID or been exposed.
She said students are concerned about having to quarantine in their rooms or suites, because they don’t want to risk infecting their roommates.
“So students who test positive have the option to go home and potentially expose their families, or stay in their residence hall room and potentially expose their roommate or suite mates,” Alexander said. “I think it’s creating a bit of a stressful environment already here at Chapel Hill.”
The university wouldn’t say how many quarantine or isolation rooms they have set aside for emergency situations, just that they will be used on a case-by-case basis.
Currently, 94 percent of students at UNC have attested to being vaccinated and 89 percent of employees have said they are vaccinated.