Rise in Covid-19 cases prompts UNCW to cancel events, pause residence hall visits

Chancellor Sartarelli penned a letter to UNCW students about postponing or canceling some events, while moving others to virtual platforms in an attempt to keep Covid-19 cases at bay. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — Six days into a new school year, Chancellor Jose Sartarelli addressed UNCW’s student body Tuesday in a letter about the rise in Covid-19 cases. The letter comes after a cluster on campus was announced in Sandpiper Residence Hall on Monday.

As part of the 2021-22 school year, UNCW students are required to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing. Surveillance testing began Monday, Aug. 23. UNCW’s Covid-19 dashboard shows 763 tests were administered, with 96 showing positive results — topping its highest single-day positive test count of 38 from Sept. 3, 2020.

Because of such, certain activities and events normally welcoming large groups of people, even if outdoors, will either be canceled, postponed or moved onto a virtual platform. The move comes in an effort to preserve in-person classes and on-campus living, the chancellor said.


UNCW canceled its Involvement Carnival for Wednesday, Aug. 25. It also paused residence hall visitations from non-residents.

Activities, meetings and events that aren’t related to coursework or student learning are moving to virtual platforms. This includes supervisors extending teleworking options to non-student-facing employees and hosting virtual meetings for the time being.

“We have not yet decided about resuming the event exception protocols that were in place last academic year,” Sartarelli wrote. “Once we have more information, we will share it.”

Over the last 10 days, the Covid-19 dashboard shows 75 on-campus cases, as well as 99 off-campus cases, along with five faculty and staff infected. So far, most on-campus cases have been detected in unvaccinated individuals.

The campus has 150 beds available for isolation and quarantine; 22% — or 33 beds — were marked in use as of Monday.

Sartarelli expressed concern over the delta variant being more infectious, causing an increase in numbers. He also noted a “prevalence of students and employees participating in classes, work and activities even though they don’t feel well, and a lack of attention among some Seahawks to following COVID-19 best practices.”

While requesting everyone wear masks indoors and when in large gatherings, as well as maintaining social distance, and frequently sanitizing their hands, the chancellor also urged the unvaccinated to get the shot(s). Vaccines are offered for free at the campus Student Health Center and at various on-campus pop-up clinics.

UNCW’s administration is currently working through the vaccination status of each student. Enrollment tops out over 17,000 for both undergraduate and graduate students.

“A reminder survey will be sent today to faculty and staff, as well as off-campus students taking face-to-face courses who have not already submitted it,” the chancellor wrote Tuesday.

He noted the cancellation of events will be re-evaluated on or before Sept. 17. Data and “circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus and its variants” will play a role in determining the best path forward. 

Campus officials also will meet in coming days to discuss moves within the Seahawks athletics program. Indoors, masks are required on campus already. Strong recommendations remain in place for fans to wear face coverings at outdoor games.

An indoor mask mandate has been enacted across all of New Hanover County until further notice.  


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