Messages

Omicron variant and new spring testing requirements

The University urges all members of the Carolina community to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot for the best defense against COVID-19 and the omicron variant. See updates on spring testing requirements and information on the Carolina Together Testing Program.

The Old Well.

Dear Carolina Community,

Last Wednesday we notified the community about the continuation of our COVID-19 Community Standards for the spring 2022 semester. We are writing today to provide important additional information regarding the spring 2022 semester. The omicron variant of COVID-19 is now spreading in our country, and there have been cases reported in North Carolina and here in Orange County. We have been closely monitoring conditions locally and nationally and consulting daily with our infectious disease experts and UNC Health leaders, as well as Orange County Health Department (OCHD) and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services officials.

We are urging all members of our community to do everything they can to protect themselves, including getting a booster shot as soon as they are eligible. Public health experts and doctors have said the best defense against COVID-19, including the omicron variant, is to get vaccinated and then get your booster shot if you received your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago and one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago. At the guidance of OCHD, people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get the Pfizer or Moderna boosters if possible. While we cannot mandate the booster, we have consistently urged everyone to get the booster shot. The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing death and hospitalization from COVID-19, including the new variant.

COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are available on a walk-in basis at Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy for students, faculty and staff. No appointment is necessary. Bring your insurance card, and if receiving a COVID-19 booster, your COVID-19 vaccination card. While the clinics will be closed for the holidays Dec. 24-Jan. 2, they are open through Dec. 23 and open again for regular hours on Jan. 3. The regular hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at both pharmacies. If you are unable to schedule your booster here in the Chapel Hill area, we strongly encourage you to get it over the holidays wherever you are staying. You can find off-campus vaccination clinics in your community at vaccines.gov.

While we are planning to welcome our students, faculty and staff back for the spring semester as scheduled, we are taking extra steps to protect our community:

1. Prior-to-arrival testing will be required for unvaccinated students.

2. Prior-to-arrival testing will be required for all students living in residence halls, regardless of their vaccination status.

3. Prior-to-arrival testing will also be strongly recommended for all undergraduate and graduate students living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, regardless of their vaccination status.

This test will need to be completed in the window of 72 hours before arrival on campus. If you are in one of these groups, this means you will need to get a PCR test from a health care provider before returning to campus. It is important to know that some providers can take 2-3 days to get results so please plan ahead and limit your interactions after testing. For students who cannot locate a free community testing center and have to pay for a COVID-19 test, the University will reimburse testing costs for their prior-to-arrival testing up to $65 with a receipt. Please save the receipt, and we will provide more information on that process in the coming days.

Once a result is received, students will need to upload the results to the Student Requirements Dashboard on Connect Carolina. If you receive a positive result, do not return to campus and potentially put others at risk. Please isolate in your current location and notify your instructors if you will miss classes. Instructors should be as flexible as possible during these initial two weeks of the semester as we anticipate some students will be delayed in their return. The steps of the return process are outlined on the Carolina Together website as well.

We will announce any changes to the spring 2022 operations no later than Monday, Jan. 3. In the past year, we have successfully made operational changes as necessary to protect our community, and we are prepared to make changes again, if needed. Therefore, we will continue to reevaluate the need to make additional changes to congregate living (residence halls and fraternity and sorority housing), large gatherings and events, modes of instruction, and public transportation. Until then, we will continue working in collaboration with our campus unit leaders, deans and the chancellor’s cabinet, as well as the UNC System and our public health experts to prepare for the semester by making the decisions that will best help our community have a safe and successful semester.

In addition to vaccination and boosters, we encourage you to exercise caution when traveling, continue wearing your mask, especially indoors, and stay home and contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Our resilience and ability to persevere and realize our teaching, research and service missions throughout this pandemic are due to the commitment of our community, and we thank you once again for your work to keep our community safe.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Chancellor

Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Amir Barzin
Director and Lead Physician, Carolina Together Testing Program