COVID-19 cases increase across NC universities within first week of classes

Student and staff on college campuses are hoping this semester isn't a repeat of last fall.

"It was just anxiety-ridden. It was like, 'oh this residence hall has a cluster and now this one,' and it was just like wildfire," remembered NC State University junior Caroline Heater.

This time last year many campuses welcomed students back only to switch back to virtual learning within weeks as cases skyrocketed.

Currently, NC State is reporting 348 COVID-19 cases in August. Half of those cases were detected in the last ten days. The college has more than 500 students in isolation and quarantine.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill experiencing similar numbers. The latest update revealing 351 COVID-19 cases in August with around 100 detected just on Wednesday and Thursday.

Duke University has fewer students and mandated vaccines. The Durham university reported slightly fewer cases at 246. Earlier this month, the university reported two separate clusters involving medical students and the women's field hockey team. The university reported that all students involved in the clusters were fully vaccinated and most did not experience any symptoms.

In the last week, 81 staff and students tested positive at North Carolina Central University.

UNC Wilmington announced Friday morning some of its classes and labs would become virtual amid increasing cases. Nearly 500 students and staff tested positive in the last ten days. Seventy-one percent of the 150 beds the university set aside for quarantining were full.

None of the major universities in the Triangle have moved to virtual. Universities hoping to manage cases this year with many implementing regular testing, requiring masks indoors and recommending vaccines.

More than 28,000 students and staff have reported being vaccinated at NC State. The university has around 35,000 students. Last week the university began requiring unvaccinated staff and students to participate in weekly testing.

UNC-Chapel Hill reported 89% of its students and 82% of its staff is vaccinated. Like NC State, the UNC students and staff get tested regularly if they are not vaccinated. The campus reported one cluster last Saturday involving eight cases so far at a residence hall.

Currently, local colleges are managing to keep their positivity rates low. UNC, NC State and Duke all reporting fewer than 2.5% of tests coming back positive.

NC State junior Heater said she does feel safer this fall than in 2020 due to the increased precautions. She is hopeful campuses can stay in-person and control the spread.

"I think if we start to not contain it then we absolutely should move online; unfortunately. I really don't want our freshman to go home," she said.

Health and college officials continue to push vaccines to prevent increased spread both on campuses and to the surrounding communities.
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