Dear Carolina Community,
We are writing to share some important reminders and updates as we continue to plan for our spring semester. In consultation with the Orange County Health Department, our academic deans and student affairs leaders, we are updating our COVID-19 mitigation strategies to reflect the most recent guidance from the CDC and our infectious disease experts in response to the quickly spreading omicron variant. We have heard from many students, parents and faculty about the value they place in an on-campus living and learning environment, and the importance of in-person instruction for student success. We remain committed to providing the safest residential learning experience for our students.
We have also heard suggestions about altering the start of the semester and have considered several options, while listening to many of our campus constituencies and consulting with colleagues at other institutions. We recognize that some students may be delayed in their return to campus, and we are aware of circumstances that may prevent some faculty from delivering their previously planned in-person instruction in the initial weeks of the semester. To accommodate these situations, which may be highly fluid, we are delegating to deans the discretion to temporarily modify modes of instruction for specific courses. With guidance from the Provost’s Office, deans will consult with department chairs and their respective faculty to draft, review and approve any requests for temporary alterations to the mode of instruction for a course. Students will be notified by their faculty should there be any approved changes in delivery modes for specific classes.
As mentioned last week, we are implementing several additional changes in support of our students, faculty and staff for the start of classes on Jan. 10.
Prior-to-arrival testing is required for any unvaccinated student and for all students living in our campus residence halls. These students need to complete a PCR test 72 hours before arriving on campus. Some providers can take two or three days to get results, so please schedule tests accordingly and limit your interactions after testing. For students who cannot locate a free community testing center and need to pay for a COVID-19 test, the University will reimburse costs for prior-to-arrival testing up to $65 with a receipt. Please save the receipt, and we will provide more information on that process soon. Prior-to-arrival testing is recommended for all students returning to campus.
Students will need to upload their PCR test results to the Student Requirements Dashboard on ConnectCarolina. If you receive a positive result, do not return to campus for five days per CDC guidance. Instead, isolate in your current location and notify your instructors if you will miss classes. We have asked instructors to be as flexible as possible during the initial weeks of the semester as we anticipate some students will be delayed in their return. The steps of the return process are also outlined on the Carolina Together website. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days outside of CTTP and Campus Health and completed your required isolation, you can upload documentation of your positive test result. This will meet the requirement for prior-to-arrival testing.
Our COVID-19 Community Standards remain in place, and we also ask all members of our campus community to wear a mask in all public settings (including residence halls) and get fully vaccinated (including a booster). This guidance remains the best way to control the spread of the virus and the length and severity of illness. Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy will resume regular hours on Jan. 3 for students, faculty and staff who need COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Bring your insurance card, and if receiving a COVID-19 booster, a COVID-19 vaccination card. No appointment is necessary.
Testing and isolation update
In consultation with the Orange County Health Department, we are reducing appointments at the Carolina Together Testing Program for asymptomatic individuals and altering on-campus isolation and quarantine housing requirements in Carolina Housing.
Testing: We understand that having access to testing on our campus has been important. We also understand from the Orange County Health Department and our public health experts that asymptomatic testing has limited utility given the short incubation period and high transmission rate for the omicron variant. Because of this, testing at the Carolina Together Testing Program will be by appointment only via Hallpass. Symptomatic testing remains important and will be available at Campus Health Services for students. Faculty and staff should continue to seek testing through their community health care provider.
Isolation: We anticipate we will have cases on campus and are relying on our community members to make good decisions in support of one another. If you test positive or exhibit symptoms, please remain at home until you are no longer symptomatic or for five days if you are asymptomatic, regardless of your vaccination status. Others can help limit the spread by avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask as much as possible, including inside your residence hall.
Residential students who test positive can isolate at home (strongly preferred) or in their residence hall room (only leaving for food pick-up and medical care). Detailed information can be found on the Carolina Housing website.
As with much of our planning throughout the pandemic, we have made this plan with consultation of our own public health and infectious disease experts and the Orange County Health Department. We will remain in consultation in case we need to modify this guidance to accommodate the evolving omicron outbreak. We know the best experience for our students is on campus with in-person classes, and we want to do everything we can to make that possible. These are difficult times, and we ask everyone to do their part—get fully vaccinated and wear a mask—and offer each other flexibility and understanding as we navigate the next few weeks together. We look forward to seeing you on campus safely again soon.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Director and Lead Physician, Carolina Together Testing Program