WILMINGTON — After a rocky start to the UNCW school year, with steep Covid-19 spikes reported during the first week of classes, it appears the data is improving on campus, according to a message Chancellor Sartarelli sent out Monday.
Last month, for four consecutive days, UNCW’s Covid-19 dashboard showed the case count among students hitting high marks — between 94 and 122 positive cases tested daily, totaling over 400. Twenty days later, the trend is heading downward; from Sept. 7 to 10, there have been between one and 17 cases counted daily, totaling 47.
Whereas on Aug. 27, 110 quarantine beds were in use, five are currently occupied. Only 12 students on campus and 37 off campus are reported having tested positive for Covid-19 over the last 10 days.
Student health has reported vaccination statuses through Sept. 7, showing inoculation rates at 87% for faculty and staff, 72% for residential students, and 57% for off-campus students. Free vaccinations continue to be offered at Student Health without an appointment. The campus also hosts pop-up sites.
The current trend is one Sartarelli said he wants to see continue: “We are going to keep the momentum going by maintaining our focus on efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic-related guidance in place now will remain in effect until Oct. 15, based on the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus and its variants.”
UNCW continues to do surveillance testing weekly for those who are unvaccinated. Between Sept. 7 and 10, it administered over 1,200 tests. A student who lives on campus and misses three surveillance tests would lose housing privileges, according to a new policy implemented for those who are unvaccinated.
Indoor face coverings are required in all of New Hanover County indoor spaces until further notice — which includes UNCW buildings, except when eating and drinking in dining halls. The mandate extends into riding Wave buses, shuttles, vans and UNCW vehicles.
Face coverings are not required outdoors on campus; however, the chancellor reminded students, faculty and staff they may be mandated or recommended during large gatherings. For now, indoor in-person events continue to be scheduled virtually or postponed, and residential halls remain closed to off-campus visitors as well.
The chancellor said faculty and professors will continue to have flexibility switching up course instruction style — for instance if, due to a Covid-19 outbreak, class needs to go virtual. This option will remain in place for the rest of the fall semester, yet the Office of the Provost will address faculty in a separate message on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
Other campus supervisors are encouraged to continue allowing staff flexibility in working from home and hosting meetings virtually through the rest of the semester.
Sartarelli reminded the campus community that, in addition to following guidance from local public health, UNCW adheres to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the UNCW System policies.
“Ideally, vaccination rates in our state will continue to increase to a large percentage of the population overall, a level that public health experts indicate would provide greater protection against COVID-19 and its variants,” Sartarelli said.
To date, 51% of North Carolina’s total population is vaccinated. New Hanover County is trending higher by a few percentage points at 57.
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