ECU leaders prepare to welcome students back to campus as omicron variant surges


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — East Carolina University leaders are preparing for students to return to campus in the coming days, as the omicron variant continues to surge.

The first day of classes is Monday. While students get ready for the upcoming semester, they also will need to plan on getting a COVID-19 test. The university announced new testing requirements during winter break.

“We feel confident with the processes that we have in place and are really ready to get to the other side of this,” said Lauren Thorn, associate dean in ECU’s Dean of Students.

The campus is quiet now, but starting Monday, students will return for spring classes. A new semester means new requirements.

“We are asking all students who live in campus living housing to participate in re-entry testing, regardless of vaccination status,” said Thorn.

Unvaccinated students living off-campus also need a test, unless they’ve had COVID in the past 90 days.

ECU leaders said they recognize how hard it can be to find a test right now. The university is offering clinics at the main campus student center and at the Mako testing site.

“We are making it super easy,” said Thorn. “There are accessible hours, great turnaround time.”

The return to campus comes as case numbers and positivity rates continue to climb. Some universities across the country, like Stanford, are even moving classes online for the first two weeks of the semester.

“I do think that Stanford is taking reasonable measures these first two weeks,” said Gloria Vergara, a student at Stanford. “However, I do hope that we do get to have in-person classes.”

ECU officials said they have no plans to do that.

“We’ll continue to reevaluate policies as we move forward, but at this point, we do not plan on doing full virtual,” said Thorn.

Instead, the university will pause individual classes if a high number of students get sick.

“Give us some time to anticipate and work through the surge we know is coming, but also know that we’ve been able to come through this very positively on the other end,” said Thorn.

The campus indoor mask mandate is still in place. Officials said they will meet at the beginning of February to discuss possibly removing it. That will depend on case numbers and positivity rates at that time.

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