UNC-Chapel Hill not requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students this spring

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Students who are not vaccinated at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill will not be required to undergo weekly asymptomatic testing this spring, according to campus officials.

While re-entry testing will be required for unvaccinated students and students who live on campus (regardless of vaccination status), campus officials told CBS 17 Friday that weekly asymptomatic testing will not be mandatory this spring.

Last semester, unvaccinated students were required to participate in weekly asymptomatic testing and no appointments were needed through the Carolina Together Testing Program.

CBS 17 asked campus officials why the university had decided to stop weekly COVID-19 testing.

In an email, campus officials said from what they understand from the Orange County Health Department and public health officials, asymptomatic testing has “limited utility” given the short incubation period and high transmission rate for the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Because of that, campus officials said testing at the Carolina Together testing program will now be by appointment only via a web-based application called Hall Pass.

UNC Ph.D. student Aaron Pattillo-Lunt said he has concerns about the university’s decision to reduce testing through the Carolina Together testing program.

“I’m just concerned that health is not at the forefront of decisions being made,” Pattillo-Lunt said.

Pattillo-Lunt said even though he was fully vaccinated last semester, he would still get weekly tests on campus for COVID just as a precaution.

Now that testing will be reduced to appointment only, he’s concerned he won’t be able to do the same thing this spring.

“This is a lot of students to converge in a really small town,” Pattillo-Lunt said. “With the new information that they’re going to reduce testing to appointment only, I think is pretty concerning. It would seem like testing should be ramped up, rather ramped down.”

In addition to the new information about testing, the university also announced Friday that they’ll be allowing deans of the different departments to decide if the mode of instruction for certain classes should be changed to remote.

Students will be notified by their professors if there will be any changes made to their classes.

UNC sophomore D.J. Murphy said he feels safe returning to class this spring and he is hoping all of his classes will be in person.

“I’m fully vaccinated and I received my booster over a month ago,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to move on. The virus is going to be around, so we’ve just got to see past it at this point.”

UNC’s Faculty Executive Committee scheduled a meeting for Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. to discuss plans for the spring semester. But that meeting was canceled hours before it was supposed to take place.

Mimi Chapman, chair of the committee, told CBS 17 over the phone that they canceled the meeting because the university answered a lot of their questions in the announcement UNC posted on social media pages on Friday morning.

Pattillo-Lunt said he thinks the university should be more open about the decisions that are being made regarding the plans for the spring semester.

“I think there’s been a significant lack of transparency as to how decisions are being made, which is concerning,” Pattillo-Lunt said.

Classes start at UNC-CH on Jan. 10. For more information on the university’s plans for the spring semester, click on the following link.

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