COVID-19 Update: Cluster Notifications and the Carolina Together Dashboard

Bell tower in springtime.
Scenes from the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on March 25, 2020. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

As we approach the start of classes, I want to share important information about how we will communicate COVID-19 cases and clusters during the Spring 2021 semester, as well as some changes we have made to the Carolina Together Dashboard.

Cluster Notifications

The University follows the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a cluster, which is five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in close proximity or location, such as within a single residence hall or dwelling, with a plausible epidemiologic link between cases. The University will continue communicating broadly about clusters of COVID-19 cases in on-campus residence halls, Granville Towers and fraternity or sorority houses.

Early in the Fall 2020 semester, we alerted the campus community to clusters at the University through the Alert Carolina system based on our understanding of the requirements for COVID-19 set by the U.S. Department of Education Clery Act, which guides what health and safety information universities share with their campus.

As I wrote in late August, Department of Education staff, our consultants and experts agreed that we should start communicating clusters through the Carolina Together website and the UNC-Chapel Hill Twitter and Facebook handles. For the Spring 2021 semester, we will continue with this approach. If there is a cluster confirmed by the Orange County Health Department, we will post a message on the Carolina Together website and send a notification on the UNC-Chapel Hill Twitter and Facebook handles. In addition, we will add that cluster to the Carolina Together dashboard with the number of active cases during the next regularly scheduled update. Students who live in the house or residence hall where the cluster is confirmed will receive a direct communication with more information and instruction.

Carolina Together Dashboard

We will also continue to maintain the Carolina Together dashboard, updating it daily Monday through Friday with metrics like numbers of positive cases, quarantine and isolation housing occupancy, and cluster locations. The dashboard helps us track and analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the overall health of our campus community and our ability to appropriately respond to change.

For the upcoming semester, we have improved the dashboard so it provides a more transparent and comprehensive look at COVID-19 in our community. These changes will go into effect early next week. Our new reporting structure will allow us to make more accurate, concise data publicly available:

  • The On-Campus Testing section now includes all tests performed on campus, both through the Carolina Together Testing Program and at Campus Health since Jan. 1, 2021.
  • The Positivity Rate reflects the rate of positive tests performed on the UNC–Chapel Hill campus since Jan. 1.
  • The All Reported Positive Cases includes our total positive cases reported from Campus Health, the Carolina Together Testing locations, proactive community testing and self-reported test results, for students and employees, since Feb. 2020.
  • The Clusters section will include the location of the cluster and the number of positive cases within the cluster. A cluster will be removed from the dashboard once it is no longer active, which means there have been no new cases for a 28-day period.*

It will take every one of us working together to make this semester a success. We learned during the fall semester that there was little to no COVID-19 spread when the COVID-19 Community Standards were followed. Committing to following these standards is a condition of your presence on campus- whether you are a student, faculty or staff member.

We continue to populate the Carolina Together website with the latest updates from across campus as we prepare to start the spring semester. I also strongly encourage you to download the Carolina Ready Safety App, which brings important Carolina Together resources, like the COVID-19 Community Standards and mask distribution sites, right to your mobile phone.

Thank you for doing your part to keep yourself and our campus community safe and healthy.

George Battle
Vice Chancellor, Institutional Integrity and Risk Management

(*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this email indicated the date a cluster was identified would be included on the Carolina Together dashboard, which is incorrect. The date a cluster was identified is included on the Cluster Notifications page but not on the Carolina Together dashboard.)