The data in this article was recorded and finalized as of Jan. 16, 2022.
The University leadership has decided to host the first two weeks of class virtually after the previous semester was held in person. This decision was made due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, particularly the easily transmissible Omicron variant. With one week left of virtual instruction, many wonder whether this is a temporary change or the prelude to an all-virtual semester.
The popular consensus within the medical community suggests that the U.S. will reach its second spike this month after the holiday season has ended. According to WCNC, recently published research indicates that North Carolina is expected to be at or quickly approaching its peak for the Omicron variant. Christopher Ohl with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Hospital told WCNC, “We’ll probably peak here in the next week.”
Nevertheless, the Charlotte metropolitan area has a poor track record with the virus. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Mecklenburg County has had more than 216,517 cases since the pandemic began, more than any other county in the state. In addition, this month has seen an upward trend in COVID-19 infections.
Although, there are signs that this latest outbreak has lost some momentum. According to the New York Times, Mecklenburg recorded a daily average of 232 cases per 100,000 residents last week, which could be the potential onset of a plateau. WCNC reports that the county’s positivity rate for newly tested residents was 36% as of Jan. 11, down from 37.8% just two days earlier.
Unfortunately, that drop in new cases has yet to be reflected on this campus. The UNC Charlotte Dashboard documented 409 cases from Jan. 3 through Jan. 9, accounting for 20.8% of all the tests conducted that week. However, this statistic represents all students and employees regardless of whether they were on campus at the time of testing.
Charlotte has endured a sickly start to the new year, but this does not reflect all the data. Only 1.9% of all campus-related tests were positive. While total confirmed cases stand at 5,829 after July 2020, on-campus active cases are currently at 158.
Though cases are increasing daily on almost every campus, Charlotte’s transition to virtual classes has helped the student body and faculty reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
Other universities in the UNC system that are as populated as Charlotte have the complete opposite to say. For example, UNC, NC State and East Carolina started their semester in-person, and their positivity rates sky-rocketed within the first week.
According to the UNC CV-19 Dashboard, the positivity rate among Chapel Hill students and faculty is currently 13.33%. About 800 students and faculty tested positive within the first week of classes from Jan. 10 to 14, with a total of 1,264 active cases.
Similarly, ECU has seen the same influx of positive cases with a positivity rate of 14% last week. According to East Carolina’s Dashboard, the total number of open cases looms at 3,306, with 962 new positive cases between Jan. 10 to 14.
N.C. State’s Dashboard charted 1,139 positive tests from Jan. 10 to 13, with 1,889 active cases. Not only is the positivity rate climbing, but the inability to carry out university safety protocols has become concerning.
The Director of Graduate Professional Development at N.C. State, Meagan Kittle Autry posted this tweet on the second day of class: “Update from Student Health: They are overwhelmed. They are seeing 500 positive tests per day (/3000). Campus can no longer handle isolation or quarantine in our buildings. Students are recommended to go home. Contact tracing is discontinued because they are stretched too thin.”
N.C. State’s inaction to this recent upsurge puts students and faculty at a higher risk. Temporary virtual learning is an ideal precaution when contact tracing becomes impractical.
Though the reentry processes are similar across the UNC system, Charlotte has taken an extra step to keep their students and faculty safe. Charlotte’s two-week transition was a timely choice when factoring in the holiday surge in new cases. However, the uncertainty of the situation has inspired feelings of deja vu back to March 2020. Hopefully, all students can resume in-person instruction on Jan. 24.
If students or staff are concerned about contracting the virus, the University is offering on-campus mitigation testing every weekday at the Student Union, the EPIC building and the top floor of South Village Crossing from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Jan. 28. For more information, please visit: www.mobilevaccinationservices.com/unccweekly.