As we approach the Spring 2021 semester at UNCG, it remains clear that we must continue our diligence, vigilance, and shared focus on navigating the substantial challenges associated with operating and attending a university like ours during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were pleased to demonstrate last semester that with shared effort and commitment to each other, we can make it work. Our faculty and staff worked tirelessly to create an environment that was as safe as possible while still delivering the academic experience our students want and need. And even more, our students showed a willingness to adapt, to do what was necessary even when it was difficult, and to make the safety of our entire community their priority. We are so proud of what we achieved together, and we are grateful to all who made it possible.
Now, even as a vaccine presents hope for the future control and containment of this virus, the day-to-day situation will remain challenging. Flexibility and adaptability are our watchwords. And above all else, the thoughtful, caring, consistent behavior of our students and adherence to our vital community health standards will be key to successfully delivering the student experience our Spartans demand, expect, and deserve.
UNCG will maintain its current calendar and operational plans, with classes beginning in online, hybrid, and in-person formats on Jan. 19, 2021. We expect higher case counts in the spring than we had in the fall. This is because of the overall trajectory of the virus in our state and across the country. We are moving forward with many different measures, plans, and contingencies in place including:
- Increased testing capabilities and turnaround time (see below for requirements)
- Increased quarantine and isolation facilities
- Decreased density on our campus in residence halls (which will only be about 65% full with a higher percentage of students in individual rooms)
- Continued flexibility around class schedules and course delivery: As with last semester, courses will be delivered through a combination of online, in-person, and hybrid formats. Faculty may need to temporarily change the mode of delivery (move from face-to-face or hybrid to online) for periods of time depending on their own health status or the health of their students. Any changes will be communicated as soon as possible with students, and advisors will be prepared to help students navigate any impacts to their schedules or plans.
- Plans for vaccine rollout are underway pending state and county guidance.
Perhaps above all else, we will use the experience and knowledge gained from the last semester and the proven ability of our students, faculty, staff, and community partners to do everything we can to make our plans work.
To best protect our community, there will be substantial testing requirements and ongoing testing protocols:
- All residential students will be required to submit documentation of their current COVID-19 status, either by alerting us that they are currently in isolation or quarantine through the self-report portal, by showing proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test, or by providing documentation that they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 90 days and have completed their isolation period (and therefore do not need to be tested again per the CDC) prior to moving into their residence hall. Testing will be offered on campus, or students can choose to get tested in their communities. Further details have been communicated directly to residential students through Housing and Residence Life.
- In addition, all students living on campus will be asked to participate in our substantial randomized “surveillance testing” program. A surveillance testing program means that random samples of students will be selected and tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have a known exposure or are showing symptoms of COVID-19. This allows us to gauge the prevalence of the virus on our campus and identify potential areas where risk may be increased. Participation is extremely important to our ongoing community health efforts – especially in terms of identifying and managing issues specific to residence halls.
- Residential and non-residential students, as well as employees, can continue to take advantage of free testing clinics that will be held on campus throughout the semester. We strongly encourage participation in these testing opportunities as it will help individuals manage their own health status, and this data is also extremely important to our community efforts.
- Per guidance from Guilford County Public Health, isolation and quarantine protocols remain the same as they were this fall. Any student testing positive will be required to isolate; any student identified as a close contact will be required to quarantine. Details on quarantine and isolation are available here. We will continue to provide isolation and quarantine rooms on campus for residential students and provide them with the appropriate medical, food, and academic support services. And, we will continue to work with non-residential students to both help determine the best strategy for completing isolation/quarantine and provide the needed academic support services.
Details on the move-in process for students are available here. Please remember: if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not come to campus. Call your personal health care provider or Student Health Services to ask if you need to be tested. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, complete the self-reporting form.
Continue to Avoid Gatherings
Returning to campus historically means reconnecting with friends and rejoining social groups. This semester, we must all continue to avoid gathering in groups. This is a necessary sacrifice. We ask for continued vigilance from our students, faculty, and staff. Don’t host large events. Don’t go to large events. UNCG Police and Greensboro Police will continue enforcing the Governor’s orders. Violations of these orders are criminal offenses and subject to disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct. Employees who do not adhere to our community standards will also be subject to disciplinary action. We appreciate that students help us identify problem areas and anticipate gatherings. If you have concerns about a rumored event or party, please report them using our COVID-19 Incident Form.
We are in close communication with our local public health officials regarding distribution of the vaccine to employees and students. We are awaiting further guidance, working with county officials, and will share any updates we receive as soon as possible.
Individuals who may be in the groups identified by the state for the initial wave (Phase 1A) of vaccination have been directly contacted by North Carolina state health officials. Please continue checking the UNCG COVID-19 website for the latest updates. We also recommend that you visit NC DHHS to learn more about our state’s plan to protect North Carolinians from COVID-19.
As previously announced, the Faculty Senate and UNC System have altered some academic policies in ways that should provide substantial relief from the challenges of learning during the pandemic. These changes applied to the Fall term and will continue to apply in the Spring 2021 term. The new academic relief package has three components: limited satisfactory/unsatisfactory (SA/US) grading; flexible withdrawal options; and flexible grade exclusion and replacement options. Details are available here.
We know how challenging learning and succeeding in this environment can be. As always, if you need academic, social, or mental health support, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The Keep Learning website can connect you to the many campus resources that are here to support your continued success.
Ongoing Data Monitoring
We will continue monitoring our campus data and trends in the larger community closely because we know conditions can change rapidly. As we have said before, if data, including metrics like multiple clusters, indicates we should change plans and move instruction to an online-only environment, or make other operational or academic adjustments for the Spring term, we will do so without hesitation and communicate our plans quickly.
Distribution of Federal Stimulus Money to Eligible Students
As a result of the coronavirus relief package that became law in December 2020, the University will distribute approximately $9 million in financial support over the course of the Spring 2021 term to students affected by the pandemic. As soon as we receive guidance from UNC System and federal officials, we will post eligibility requirements and other information on our COVID-19 website.
Alignment with State Directives
Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 181 went into effect on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, and will remain in effect until Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. The order included guidance on face coverings, business operations, and other related measures intended to slow the spread of the virus. Details are available here. UNCG’s COVID-19 policies and procedures are consistent with the requirements issued in the executive order. We will continue to monitor changes or additions to COVID-related requirements, and will notify campus of any changes to policy or procedure that may become necessary.
Community Standards: Shield Our Spartans
The COVID-19 pandemic requires all of us to be aware of our behavior, adhere to important community standards, and keep the health of ourselves and our community in mind at all times. We can all do our part and should avoid unnecessary contact as much as possible. Remember a few key points about the ‘Wear. Wash. Wait.” directives, as highlighted in this short video:
- Wear a face covering when you are indoors. If you are in your own room or office, you can remove it, but have it with you in case another person joins you. Wear a face covering outside when you can’t social distance (6 feet or more apart). Face coverings are not just one of the best tools we have to fight the spread of COVID-19, they are mandatory for everyone on campus. Do not go to class, meetings, indoor spaces, or any place where people gather without one. REMEMBER: Both the nose and mouth must be fully covered for face coverings to be effective.
- Wash your hands frequently and properly. Use soap. Take 20 seconds. Do it right to help promote good hygiene.
- Keep your distance. Stay at least 6 feet apart whenever possible. Close, prolonged contact is a proven way to spread COVID-19, so avoid it as much as possible.
We are in the process of updating the UNCG COVID-19 website to include a new tab for Spring 2021, implementing a new system that will automatically update the COVID-19 case dashboard, and we will soon update the Return to Campus Manual, and the FAQs page. We will also update related videos and graphics as needed. Details on these changes and updates will be forthcoming upon our return to campus in the spring.
For the most up-to-date information, please monitor your email frequently, regularly visit the UNCG COVID-19 website, follow our @uncg social media channels, and download the UNCG Mobile app from the Apple or Google app store to receive push notifications directly to your phone.