Both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University opened last week, with students living on campus and in-person and hybrid classes.
Both have now ended in-person undergraduate classes and are going to remote-only classes for the rest of the semester because some students tested positive for COVID-19. Classes for graduate students at both universities are unaffected by this decision.
Statements from both universities indicate that the administrations were caught off guard because students had parties and some students tested positive for COVID-19. It makes you wonder if the administrators ever leave their offices to interact with the students. Did they actually think that students returning after months apart would not have parties? Did they think that if they tested students some would not test positive?
According to reports from the universities and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), the numbers of students who tested positive should not have been alarming.
UNC-CH has about 20,000 undergraduate students. COVID-19 testing in the state has consistently shown positive results for between 6 percent and 8 percent of those tested.
At UNC-CH, this means that the expectation is that if all 20,000 students were tested the number of positive results would be between 1,200 and 1,600 students.
According to the UNC-CH Campus Health website, only students with symptoms or those who came in close contact with someone who tested positive were being tested when the decision was made to end in-person classes.
According to the UNC-CH website, the decision was made to go to remote classes because there were 117 students in isolation and 349 in quarantine for a total of 466, far below the number of positive results that would be expected if every student were tested, and not all 466 had tested positive.
The reason for going to remote classes for undergraduate students at UNC-CH is to “decrease residential density on campus,” even though off-campus parties are being blamed for many of the cases.
The decision by NC State, after 500 students were put in quarantine either because they had tested positive or had been in contact with someone who tested positive, was also to cancel in-person classes for undergraduates. But the residence halls, dining halls and other facilities remain open, making even less sense.
NC State has over 25,000 undergraduate students. Using the statewide percentage of positive tests, NC State would expect to have between 1,500 and 2,000 students test positive.
NC State, unlike UNC-CH, is not encouraging students to leave campus.
According to the message from NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson to students, off campus parties are being blamed for the clusters of positive cases. If it had been found from contract tracing that students were transmitting the disease in class, then it seems it would make sense to end in-person classes, but it isn’t reasonable to think that students are going to quit going to parties because they don’t have in-person classes.
It would appear that the administration at two of the largest and most prestigious state universities in North Carolina believed that their students were immune to COVID-19 when consistently in the state between 6 percent and 8 percent of those tested receive positive results and/or that students wouldn’t go to parties.
It is also worth noting that in the entire state of North Carolina, since the first death from COVID-19 was reported, a total of three people in the 18-24 age range with COVID-19 have died according to NCDHHS.
The numbers don’t make any more sense than any of the other COVID-19 numbers that have been provided to the public from the beginning.