UNC-CH plans for a ‘normal’ return to campus, but masks still required for everyone indoors

School Watch

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — When students return to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in August, officials said they can expect a “normal” return to campus.

As COVID cases are low and the vaccination rate is greater than 60 percent in Orange County, the University plans to fill their dorms to near capacity next month.

“The university must open on time, and we must operate as normal as possible,” said David Boliek, chair of the UNC Board of Trustees.

Officials said students can expect a full in-person experience as class sizes will go back to pre-COVID levels.

While social distancing will no longer be required on campus, the university is requiring everyone to wear masks indoors, even students who have been vaccinated.

This means masks are required in common areas, inside all buildings on campus, in classes, and in dining halls, except when students are actively eating or drinking.

However, officials said masks will not be required in dorm rooms, private offices, and instructors who have been vaccinated can remove their masks while they are teaching.

During Thursday morning’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting, trustee Marty Kotis questioned why masks are still required indoors on campus when the CDC said they are no longer needed for vaccinated individuals.

“We’re sitting in a common area with no masks, I’m just trying to understand the logic of it,” Kotis said.

But after last year’s rough start to the fall semester when a COVID outbreak forced the university to send students home just a little more than a week into the semester, officials said they don’t want to take any chances.

“We’re planning to bring thousands of students back to campus, who are coming from all over the world and all over the country, and who may come from areas where the viral load and the vaccination status is highly variable,” said Amy Johnson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. “What we want to do, is avoid circumstances like we had last fall.”

The university will continue to test students for COVID once or twice a week, depending on their classes and where they live, but students who have been vaccinated will not be required to participate.

Also, if vaccinated students are exposed to the virus, they will not be required to quarantine.

The university will have two residence halls set aside for quarantine and isolation.

UNC-CH has taken a poll and found that of the 21,000 students who have participated, 94 percent have been vaccinated.

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