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NC Colleges Report First Wave Of Cases As Semester Begins

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
Brian Batista
The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Friday announced that it avoided returning to campus 112 undergraduate students who tested positive for the coronavirus through its newly launched mass testing program.

The effort to test more incoming students aims to better monitor levels of COVID-19 transmission to prevent the spread from getting out of hand on campus as it did in August.

One week into the fall semester, UNC shut down all in-person classes for undergraduates and urged students to leave their residence halls and return home. North Carolina State University and East Carolina University followed suit shortly thereafter.

UNC said it has performed 13,500 tests in three testing centers and seven pop-up sites at residence halls since Jan. 11.

Since the start of the new calendar year, 262 students and 83 employees have tested positive for the virus. About one-third of the cases were reported through the campus testing initiative.

UNC, which kicked off the semester Tuesday with virtual learning, decided earlier this month that it would delay in-person classes by three weeks due to increased spread of the virus throughout the country and in North Carolina.

Appalachian State University delayed in-person classes until at least Feb. 1, while UNC-Charlotte will have online-only classes until at least Feb. 22 for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Other universities have pressed forward as planned.

Perhaps no campus in the state has been more successful than Duke University, which began the spring semester Wednesday and requires students to be tested for the virus before they can begin their classes and on-campus activities.

Of the 18,465 tests administered to students between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17, only 49 results were positive — a positivity rate of about one-fourth of 1%.

N.C. State started the semester Tuesday with a mix of online, in-person and hybrid instruction. The college has reported 572 cases among students and employees since the start of 2021. The university has reported more coronavirus cases to date than any other campus, with more than 1,900 students infected as of Thursday. About 1,700 cases among students have been reported at UNC since the start of the pandemic.

The state of North Carolina on Friday eclipsed 700,000 total cases and is approaching 8,500 deaths.

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