UNCW announces returning testing requirements, other spring semester updates

UNCW%27s+Fisher+Student+Center.

Lauren Wessell

UNCW’s Fisher Student Center.

Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

This article was updated on Jan. 13, 2021, to include further clarification provided by a university spokesperson. It was originally published on Jan. 9, 2021.

With less than two weeks before the start of the spring 2021 semester, the university announced that off-campus students enrolled in on-campus classes and on-campus residents will now be required to provide a negative COVID-19 virus test before returning to class. Students must have proof of a negative result from at most five days prior to returning to campus. 

Off-campus students can drop off proof of their negative test results at the drop-off location, Lot 1A (Hamilton Lot across from the Greene Track), between 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 or at the Student Health Center beginning on Jan. 20. 

Students will need to write their 850 number and off-campus address on their sheet. Students with negative results will be required to wear a wristband upon result drop-off until Jan.22.

We have been incredibly heartened by how our students, faculty and staff have adhered to public health guidelines and Gov. Cooper’s executive orders regarding gatherings and wearing faccoverings,” wrote a university spokesperson. “All students who turn in proof of a negative test result, proof of a previous positive test in the last 90 days, or who receive a negative test on campus will get a wristband, which they are asked to wear through January 22, the third day of classes. 

“Faculty who are teaching face to face are asked to check students during those first three days so we can monitor compliance, which we expect to be very good, given our experiences from last semester. Faculty may ask students who don’t abide by the testing protocols to leave the classroom and may refer them to the Office of the Dean of Students for a potential violation of our student Code of Conduct.”

Students unable to provide a negative test before returning to campus will receive a rapid test when they arrive back on campus.  Testing will take place in the Burney Center on Jan. 19 from 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Jan. 20, 21 and 22 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. Testing at this location will also be available for on-campus residents also unable to provide a negative result before moving back on campus.

Any faculty can dismiss students from their classroom who do not abide by the testing protocols. 

“Any student found living in the halls having not been previously cleared will be escorted out and will be referred to the Office of the Dean of Students for a potential violation of our Student Code of Conduct,” per the email. 

On-campus residents returning to campus can find more information about returning to campus here. Any student who contracts or has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should not return to campus, isolate and contact Student Health Center at [email protected]

For faculty and staff, a COVID-19 virus test is recommended before returning to campus, however, it is not required. Free testing will be available for those primarily teaching and working on campus on Jan. 21 and 22 in the Burney Center from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. A UNCW ID is required.

A university spokesperson said UNCW is following state and federal guidelines regarding testing as the reason why faculty and staff are only recommended to get tested before returning to campus and not required like students. 

UNCW also plans to conduct surveillance testing throughout the semester. More information regarding that will be announced once their plans are complete. 

UNCW also received confirmation that faculty and staff will be included in Phase 1b, Groups 2 and 3 for New Hanover County’s vaccine plan. Students, even if they work on/for UNCW, will be included in Phase 3, but those with underlying conditions can receive a vaccine earlier

As far as important dates, spring break is still canceled, classes are canceled for Good Friday (April 1-2) and Spring 2021 commencement is scheduled for May 7-8. 

In addition, UNCW will continue to offer a variety of in-person, hybrid and online courses for the semester, with about 60% online, 15% in-person and 25% hybrid. 

“Our spring course schedule offers a dynamic mix of online, hybrid and in-person educational opportunities. Research activities are going strong, and many exciting arts, athletics, diversity and community engagement events and activities are planned,” as written in the email. 

UNCW will still adhere to the gathering limits instated by the current state policies which prohibit indoor in-person gatherings greater than 10 and 25 for outdoors. However, they noted that “core academic functions and services” (i.e. classes) are exempted from these restrictions as long as they are following the COVID-19 virus occupancy guidelines.

Any on-campus events are encouraged to be offered as hybrid or virtual and restricted to members of the campus community. 

“External event reservations and campus space use is highly discouraged in all campus venues, and any request is subject to review by the Exception Review Committee. All meetings, events and activities that would include external attendees should be planned as virtual delivery or hybrid (with virtual delivery for external participants),” as written in the email. 

Students, faculty and staff are also still encouraged to follow the 3 W’s (wear a face covering, wait six feet apart and wash hands frequently). For more details about how UNCW is handling the COVID-19 virus pandemic on campus, you can visit their Best for the Nest page