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UNC System Schools Dealing With More Than 300 Active COVID-19 Cases

photo of drive-thru coronavirus testing in Chatham County
Staff Sgt. Mary Junell
U.S. Army Photo

While UNC-Chapel Hill moves all of its undergraduate classes online this week due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases among its students, several other universities in the UNC System are facing smaller outbreaks.

There are more than 300 active COVID-19 cases across the 16 university campuses, based on case counts reported on universities' respective online COVID-19 dashboards.

In Chapel Hill, more than 850 students have requested to cancel their housing contracts, and more than 100 have already moved out, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill spokeswoman. The university expects to issue guidance soon on housing and dining refunds.

UNC-Chapel Hill made the announcement to change its mode of instruction Monday, after reporting four clusters of COVID-19 cases, with a total of 135 new cases on campus last week.

UNC System President Peter Hans has said other universities do not need to modify their plans at this time.

Current Case Counts at Other UNC System Universities

After UNC-Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University has the next highest active case count, with 58 students and employees in isolation on its second day of classes. The university's faculty senate gave its chancellor a vote of no confidence Monday for her response to the pandemic.

Chancellor Sheri Everts addressed the situation in a campus-wide message Monday. She highlighted the fact that 27 of the recent positive tests came from pop-up testing events held on campus, in which more than 2,000 tests were administered. Appalachian State University still has 86 percent of its isolation and quarantine rooms available.

Additionally, Appalachian State’s football team suspended practice Tuesday until further notice because of a cluster of COVID-19 cases found on the team, including seven students and four staff members.

North Carolina State University updated its dashboard Tuesday, and is now reporting 42 positive cases from the previous week, including 33 cases that were self-reported by students.

UNC Pembroke and East Carolina University each have more than 25 active or recent positive cases, while most UNC System schools are reporting fewer than 10.

Case Counts On Dashboards May Not Tell The Whole Story

The cumulative count of positive cases reported across all UNC System universities' dashboards is likely incomplete and not entirely up to date.

No two UNC System universities report their COVID-19 data in exactly the same way, and some have not yet updated their public tally this week. Some dashboards report "active cases" of students or employees currently in isolation, while others display positive COVID-19 tests completed the previous week.

East Carolina University only reports tests conducted by its student health services. UNC-Chapel Hill, by comparison, also counts positive tests self-reported by students and employees who may have been tested off-campus.

Spokespeople from several UNC System schools have confirmed they are sending daily positive case counts to the UNC System administration, but the general administration does not publish that data.

The UNC System did not respond to a request for more information about its COVID-19 data collection.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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