As COVID-19 cases continue to reach new record highs in North Carolina, students at UNC system schools are about a month away from returning to their dorms and classrooms to resume on-campus instruction.
At the system’s flagship campus, UNC-Chapel Hill, the plans for classroom instruction and the enforcement of face mask rules are still very much in flux. Last week the school backtracked on a plan to space students, who would be required to wear masks, just 3 feet apart in classroom settings — half of the distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students, faculty and staff continue to express concerns that a return to on-campus housing and instruction may be premature, given the state of the pandemic and spikes across the nation. Texas and Florida, for example, are re-imposing restrictions they had previously lifted.
This week, a by-the-numbers look at the continued risks of and evolving preparations for moving tens of thousands of young people back to the state’s college campuses.
58 — Percentage of those now testing positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina who are between the ages of 18-49, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. While the early popular understanding of COVID-19 led some to believe young people were not at risk, this is now the largest age group for infection.
State health officials attribute the number of infections among younger people to the easing of restriction and young people resuming the social activities they engaged in pre-pandemic — often without observing proper precautions like social distancing or the wearing of face masks.
6 — Feet considered “close contact” by the CDC and recommended as minimum distancing to prevent community spread and specified for colleges and universities in the center’s “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education”
3 — Feet initially adopted as sufficient spacing in classrooms with students and faculty wearing masks as part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Community Standards. After push-back from faculty, students and community members the school changed the standard to six feet.
3 — Number of “general settings” risk categories — Lowest Risk, More Risk and Highest Risk — in the CDC’s “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education” The classroom situation proposed by UNC-Chapel Hill (and most UNC schools that have so far released plans) falls under “More Risk.” The CDC characterizes “More Risk” as “small in-person classes, activities, and events. Individuals remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
3 — Number of “On Campus Housing Settings” risk categories — Lowest Risk, More Risk and Highest Risk — in the CDC’s “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education” UNC’s proposed on-campus housing falls under “Highest Risk,” which the CDC characterizes as “Residence halls are open at full capacity including shared spaces (e.g., kitchens, common areas).”
32 — Number of on-campus residence halls at UNC-Chapel Hill
2 — Number of apartment communities (1 undergraduate, 1 graduate) at UNC-Chapel Hill
2 — Number of on-campus residence halls to be used to separate students exposed to COVID-19 (Craige North residence hall) and those who test positive (Parker residence hall)
2,099 — New single day record for new positive COVID-19 tests in North Carolina, recorded on July 3.
1,329 — New cases reported on July 5. The figure reflects a 23% decrease in testing over the holiday weekend.
72,983 — Number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina as of July 5.
949 — Number of people who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of July 5. Sunday was the sixth consecutive day that hospitalizations topped 900.
1,395 — Number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in North Carolina as of July 5.