After moving all undergraduate classes online last week due to mounting COVID-19 infections, East Carolina University, N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill are this week getting a clearer picture of how broadly the virus spread through their campus shortly after students’ return for the Fall semester.
The COVID-19 dashboard at N.C. State, updated Monday, showed 46% of all the students tested on campus through student health services were positive. Since tracking began in March, there have been 457 positives — 416 students and 41 employees. Those numbers include testing through student health services, self-reports, local health authorities, and other information sources, according to the school.
The weekly update of the UNC-Chapel Hill COVID-19 dashboard, which came late Monday, showed 646 positive tests on the campus since classes began on August 10 — 635 students and 11 employees. That brings the positive percentage on the campus to 32% among students. Those numbers represent those tested through Campus Health or self-reported and measure up through Sunday, according to the school.
On Monday ECU’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 267 positive tests on the campus last week alone — 262 students and five employees. That brings the positive test rate to 26%.
None of these schools have chosen to make testing mandatory for students, faculty or staff. The numbers therefore reflect only those who sought a test or were tested after they were found to be a close contact of someone who tested positive.
Clusters of infections — defined by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services as five or more infections in a related location — suggest wide community spread of the virus at residence halls, in fraternity and sorority houses and in student apartment buildings near the campuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designate these sorts of congregate living arrangements as “highest risk” in its guidance to colleges and universities.
A number of other universities in the system are debating whether to begin or continue on-campus housing and in-person instruction, given the experiences at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and ECU. Over the weekend UNC-Charlotte announced it would hold undergraduate classes online until Oct. 1, allowing students to move onto campus at the end of September.