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Students are nervous about returning to in-person classes in October, a Niner Times survey reveals. Nearly 70 percent of the 280 respondents said they prefer an entirely remote semester while about 30 percent hope to return to in-person courses. 

On Aug. 23, UNC Charlotte announced that it would begin the semester remotely with plans to return to some in-person instruction on Oct. 1. Move-in to residence halls was also delayed until Sept. 26 except for international students, RAs and other students with extenuating circumstances. 

In the same survey, 58 percent of students with on-campus housing contracts indicated that they would not move into the dorms if instruction is moved completely online after Oct. 1.

When the University announced that the semester would begin remotely, Mecklenburg County’s positivity rate was 6.4 percent. It is now 6.2 percent. According to the World Health Organization, a 5 percent positivity rate is one indicator that the virus is under control.

UNC Charlotte reports 38 new COVID-19 cases since Sept. 7, when online classes began. The week before, there were on average three new cases per day.

Because the semester began both remotely and later than all other UNC System schools, UNC Charlotte has the unique vantage point of seeing how other universities fare before filing back into classrooms. UNC Chapel Hill, for example, jumped from a 2.8 percent positivity rate to 13.6 percent during their first week of classes. The school attributed the spike in cases to off-campus events.

UNC System President Peter Hans also blamed students for the failed openings. "This hard work is being undermined by a very small number of students behaving irresponsibly off campus, which unfairly punishes the vast majority,'' he said in a statement on Aug. 20. 

In the Niner Times survey of UNC Charlotte students, 73.7 percent said they are not at all likely to attend a party of 10 or more people. 12.6 percent are somewhat likely to attend, and 8.6 percent (24 students) responded that they were very likely to attend. Five percent said they were not sure.

UNC Charlotte can process 1,000 tests a week beginning Sept. 14 with no out-of-pocket costs, according to spokesperson Buffie Stephens. In addition to testing, faculty and students must participate in daily screening surveys. The University is also surveilling wastewater by tapping directly into waste lines in the plumbing under dormitories. The method indicates a spike in COVID-19 cases before traditional testing does. 

In an interview with the Niner Times, Chancellor Sharon Gaber said students can expect to hear early in the week of Sept. 21 whether or not UNC Charlotte will return to in-person classes on Oct. 1.

Note: The Niner Times survey cited in this article was not a random sample of students and is therefore not necessarily representative of the UNC Charlotte student body.

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