Sophomore Jay Williams studying at the Mary Livermore Library on UNCP's campus. PN Photo//Alyssa Hernandez.
Chancellor Robin Cummings told the UNCP Faculty Senate on Sept. 2 that he is “cautiously optimistic” about students being able to continue face-to-face classes.
The university recently partnered with the Robeson County Health Department to offer free Covid-19 testing to the campus community on Aug 26 and 27. The university tested 711 faculty, staff and students and had a positivity rate of 4.36%. According to the World Health Organization, the target positivity rate for relaxing restrictions is 5% or lower if that can be sustained for two weeks.
Out of 497 students tested in that event, 26 tested positive, which is 5.2% for the student sample.
In the Faculty Senate meeting, Chancellor Cummings mentioned some of the changes he has implemented to help manage the spread of COVID-19. For example, Student Health Services is now open seven days a week, with a new full-time employee working on COVID response.
Fall classes are approximately 40% online, 30% hybrid and 30% traditional face-to-face. Chancellor Cummings said contact tracing shows no evidence of transmission by attendance in classrooms.
Housing and Residence Life has implemented changes to keep students safe during COVID-19 as well. They are no longer allowing students to hang out in other residence halls other than where they reside, they’re disinfecting common spaces in residence halls weekly, and students had to sign up for a time to move in this year.
“We want to socialize students, but right now
we need to keep the community safe,” said Paul Posner, Director of Housing & Residence Life. “There is no room change this year because we do not want potentially sick students to spread what they have to others,” Posner added.
North Carolina’s “Phase 2.5” for re-openings began Sept. 4, which means indoor gatherings now can include up to 25 people (from a limit of 10 previously) and outdoor gatherings 50 people. However, Chancellor Cummings announced on Sept. 3 at a “town hall” meeting over WebEx that UNCP would stick with the lower limit of 10 indoor and 25 outdoor for student activities for the time being.
According to Chief Communications Officer Jodi Phelps, the university hopes that also restricting in-person meetings or events to those that are “core to the academic mission” will keep the trend in a favorable direction.