4th UNC-Chapel Hill COVID-19 cluster detected at residence hall one week after school starts


People remove belongings on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The UNC system announced Tuesday that it would be instructing students to return to their permanent address unless granted an exception to remain in university housing due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (NewsNation/WNCN) — A fourth cluster of COVID-19 cases was found among UNC-Chapel Hill students at living in a dorm, just one week after the start of classes for the fall semester, university officials said Sunday.

The cluster of COVID-19 was found at the Hinton James residence hall, school officials said.

COVID-19 clusters are identified as five or more cases at a dorm or other housing. The school previously reported two other clusters in dormitories as well as another at the Sigma Nu fraternity house.

The UNC Faculty Executive Committee scheduled a special meeting for Monday where faculty members said they will discuss coronavirus clusters on campus. 

The people apart of this COVID-19 cluster are isolating and receiving medical attention, officials say. The Orange County Health Department has been notified and university officials are working with them to identify additional potential exposures.

The coronavirus cases come as video and pictures surfaced showing a lack of social distancing and face coverings at gatherings near campus.

On Saturday, the UNC faculty chair sent a letter to university officials about the three clusters. In part the letter read:

“We knew there would be positive cases on our campus. But clusters, five or more people that are connected in one place, are a different story. The presence of clusters should be triggering reconsideration of residential, in-person learning. However, moving to remote instruction cannot be done without your approval. I asked President Hans about our leader’s level of independence at our Faculty Assembly meeting last week using the example of the Orange County Health Department’s letter dated July 29th in which they recommend five weeks of remote instruction, and he confirmed that such a choice would require a “conversation” with the UNC System Office and the BOG, meaning that our Chancellor does not have the authority to do what he believes, given the best advice he is being given, is right. This is an untenable situation in which to put our leadership and I ask that you change it right away.”

Dr. Mimi Chapman,

This situation created concern for students like Greear Webb who decided to live off campus and take virtual classes this year.

“I’m having many friends who are saying ‘We’re going to come home, it’s in my best interest to come home, my family wants me to come home.’ I mean I’m hearing that it is out of control,” said Webb, a sophomore.

Collyn Smith lives on campus and now fears a cluster at his dorm.

Smith says if students concerns were heard, maybe things would be different.

“That’s terrifying to me that I could get told to leave and have to go somewhere where I don’t have the same resources or access to courses as other people, and also face the financial brunt of it because there goes my financial aid package,” said Collyn Smith, an undergraduate student at UNC.

Officials say the affected students are isolating and receiving medical monitoring. Contact tracing is also underway.

However students fear things may still get worse.

“With students we have personal responsibility, but the bigger blame lies with the system and the administration for putting us in this scenario,” said Webb.

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