UNC Charlotte will proceed with its plan to return to some in-person classes on Oct. 1 and transition back to remote instruction following Thanksgiving break, according to an announcement on Tuesday afternoon.
“The ongoing decline in Mecklenburg County’s infection rate, coupled with UNC Charlotte’s comprehensive safety protocols, allows the University to move forward with a measured approach to on-campus living, learning and working this fall semester,” said Chancellor Gaber.
The news comes after Gaber announced on Aug. 23 that fall instruction would be conducted remotely for the first two weeks of the semester due to the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
The University is prioritizing the return to campus of those courses that make use of facilities and equipment, including engineering, architecture, and studio and performance art as well as labs and clinical programs. Courses that primarily serve freshmen will also offer in-person instruction. Faculty must affirm the format of their classes by Friday, Sept. 25.
Move-in to residence halls will begin as planned on Sept. 26 with classes cancelled the following Monday and Tuesday. Students may cancel their housing contracts and meal plans by Friday. Chancellor Gaber noted that, “The lost time will need to be made up during the semester,” though no further detail was provided.
Gaber noted that the University has taken several precautionary measures ahead of the return to in-person classes, including a daily symptom survey, on-site testing and contact tracing, predictive wastewater testing and de-densified residence halls. She also announced that students, faculty and staff must receive a flu shot by Nov. 16.
“I want to be clear that believing we can offer on-campus instruction with appropriate safety measures in place does not mean we believe we can open without any instances of the virus in our community,” Gaber said in her Tuesday announcement. “Positive cases of COVID-19 on campus are probable, but if we work together, we believe they can be responsibly managed through isolation, quarantine and appropriate medical care.”
Meanwhile, UNC Charlotte reports a positivity rate of 1.1%, though this only includes students who were tested at the Student Health Center. There was a spike in cases during the first week of virtual instruction with 49 students and 4 employees testing positive. There were 21 reported cases last week.
When the University announced that the semester would begin remotely, Mecklenburg County’s positivity rate was 6.4 percent. It is now 5.4 percent. According to the World Health Organization, a 5 percent positivity rate is one indicator that the virus is under control.
The decision comes after UNC Charlotte’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter on Sept. 18 imploring university administration to continue remote instruction and establish a clear plan for random testing of asymptomatic people. They also asked that no employee be required to work on campus.
“As an institution devoted to the public good of our state, it is morally incumbent upon our University to take a stand, based on scientific evidence, to protect the health of our community,” the letter states. “This commitment to evidence-based decision-making and social service is at the heart of our mission, the importance of which has been underscored by the current crisis.”