Dear Carolina Community,
On behalf of the faculty and staff who continue to plan and develop our comprehensive strategy for the spring semester, I am pleased to introduce the Carolina Together Testing Program, our re-entry and asymptomatic evaluation COVID-19 testing plan. We are sharing the following core program information so our community can prepare for a return to campus next semester and will continue to provide more details in the coming weeks.
I recognize that there is still a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to the state of the virus now and in January. As I write this, cases are going up across much of the nation, and we are heading into the colder months when the virus can spread more easily. We will closely monitor the cases and hospitalizations nationally, in our state, and locally, as we approach the semester and will be ready to alter our plans and make necessary accommodations, if needed. We will announce any changes to the spring semester operations by January 9, and until then, we will prepare for the semester by making the decisions we believe will best help our community have a safe and successful semester.
The nation and our peer universities have learned a lot about how and when to employ a rigorous testing regimen. Testing is only one part of a comprehensive approach to preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but it is an important part, and we have incorporated our top infectious disease experts and everything we have learned from around the state and nation into this plan.
At Carolina, our evaluation testing program started in September when we began offering asymptomatic testing at the Carolina Union. As part of that, Campus Health conducted 4,150 exit tests in the last week alone before students head home for winter break, and that offering continues through this Wednesday. Thank you to our Campus Health staff who worked tirelessly to make this possible and to everyone who took the time to protect those around them.
Now, we are adapting additional existing campus locations into testing centers and lab space. When students return to campus, we will provide asymptomatic evaluation testing for students, faculty and staff at three campus locations: the CURRENT Art Space at Carolina Square, the Carolina Union and the Rams Head Recreation Center. The test will be a self-administered PCR anterior nares nasal swab test. We will process results at a lab being built in the Genome Sciences Building, which will provide us the capacity to receive results within 48 hours. We will utilize a web-based app, Hall Pass, that has been developed by our faculty, for testing and results reporting.
We will have different testing requirements for our student and employee populations. Today we will share some general information about those requirements, and more details are available on the Carolina Together website. We will also share more instructions for the process, timing for return testing and enforcement after Thanksgiving.
Undergraduate Students: Going into the spring semester, all undergraduate students living on campus and in Chapel Hill or Carrboro will be required to take a test at home prior to arrival, as well as undergo re-entry and regular asymptomatic evaluation testing twice a week throughout the semester. The steps of the return process are outlined on the Carolina Together site, and we will provide more information and instructions soon.
Graduate Students: Testing for graduate students will depend on their interactions on campus and the requirements determined by their program. For example, those coming to campus to teach, learn, or work in a lab will be required to test regularly, while some will be required to use the Daily Health Checklist to monitor symptoms and testing will be voluntary. Graduate students will hear more about their specific requirements from their programs in the coming weeks.
Employees: Faculty and staff working on campus will be asked to use the Daily Health Checklist to check symptoms before coming to work each day. Testing will also be available once a week for faculty and staff coming to campus for those who want to be tested. This follows the recommendations of our health care experts since our contact tracing efforts in the fall confirmed there was no spread of the virus in the classrooms or workplaces.
The evaluation testing locations are intended for asymptomatic testing only. Symptomatic students will continue to be tested at Campus Health and symptomatic faculty and staff will continue to receive information from University Employee Occupational Health Clinic on where and when to be tested.
This plan is truly a campus-wide effort, being developed by faculty and staff leaders who are identifying UNC-Chapel Hill resources that can be utilized to provide the most efficient and effective testing program possible so that Carolina can be a safe and inclusive living, working and learning environment for all.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz