Triad universities prepare for return of students amid COVID-19 surge

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — COVID-19 hospitalizations are not slowing down.

There are currently at least 1,359 people in hospitals because of COVID across North Carolina.

In the Piedmont Triad, Cone Health had 52 people in the hospital being treated for COVID on Monday.

Novant Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health leaders would not share specific numbers.

A spokesperson at Novant Health told FOX8 the average age of COVID patients is the lowest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

As the age of people affected by the illness drops, college campuses are putting procedures in place so students and staff are as safe as possible.

Some of the restrictions are similar to what students faced at the height of the pandemic.

When students from all over the country and state return to campuses in the Triad, many will be required to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination.

“We also just ask that people continue to use common sense,” said Julia Jackson-Newsom, the associate vice chancellor for strategy and policy at UNC-Greensboro.

That’s one of the most important unofficial policies on campus before move-in starts on Aug. 9.

“We really don’t want students to get here and end up getting sick,” Jackson-Newsom said.

Newsom co-leads the COVID safety efforts at UNCG.

She told FOX8 that face coverings are required in every indoor space and highly suggested if people are gathered in groups outside.

“We are not asking for proof of vaccinations to go to events. That’s part of why we’ve put the face coverings back in place,” she said.

Administrators surveyed staff and faculty members about vaccinations.

As of Friday, July 30, of the over 1,700 employees who completed the survey, 96 percent indicated they are fully vaccinated.

Jackson-Newsom said there’s also a plan to handle the unprotected student population.

“If they’re living in an on-campus residence, they’ll have to get tested through random testing once a week,” she said. “So, about one-third of our residential students who are not vaccinated will get tested weekly.”

They will also be required to show a negative COVID-19 test within seven days of moving into the dorms.

At North Carolina A&T State University, unvaccinated students need proof of a negative test before they can move in.

“Within 48 hours of their arrival, or they will be tested at the student health center prior to their move into their student residence halls,” said Dr. Padonda Webb, the executive director for student health.

She’s warning her students and faculty to not let their guard down, even if they’re vaccinated.

“I am one of those breakthrough cases of COVID-19. I was diagnosed yesterday,” said Webb via a video interview. “That’s why we’re doing this.”

There are other rules on campus, including required mask-wearing, a 70 percent capacity limit on indoor gatherings, visitors aren’t allowed on campus and only 25 students can be in the Rec Center at one time.

“Making these changes now will enable us to make sure that we keep our rates low this semester, and we can conclude this semester successfully,” Webb said.

She has other rules and protocols ready if the campus becomes a COVID hotspot.

“We have a Plan B and a Plan C if we need to pivot and make our guidelines a bit more strict. But I’m hopeful we won’t have to do that,” Webb said.

FOX8 did check with a representative from Elon University. Officials are working on getting everyone vaccinated.

If people have their shots, they don’t have to wear a mask.

University leaders are hoping anyone who is not vaccinated, respects their policies and puts on a face covering.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

MOST POPULAR

get the app

My FOX8 News App

North Carolina Coronavirus Hotline: 1-866-462-3821

Follow FOX8 on Twitter