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UNC-Chapel Hill Sees Two COVID Outbreaks In Reopened Dorms

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RALEIGH — School is back in session this week at many North Carolina college campuses, and so is the coronavirus.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced on Friday it had two separate clusters of COVID-19 occur among residents of Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers.

At least five students in each area tested positive for the virus after being in close proximity with their peers, according to UNC.

“The individuals in these clusters have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring,” the university said in an email to students, faculty and staff. “We have also notified the Orange County Health Department and are working with them to identify additional potential exposures.”

UNC said those with a fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches or a cough, should immediately contact their medical provider or Campus Health.

News of the outbreak comes as the school works to shut down campus parties and mass gatherings of students. Fall classes resumed at UNC on Monday, with students beginning to move into their residence halls on Aug. 3.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz has long defended the fall reopening, insisting the university has the capacity to bring students back to campus safely through its mask wearing requirements and testing and contact tracing capacity.

But he has also said the plans rely on students following public health guidelines. He told The Washington Post on Tuesday that three students were kicked out of campus housing because they did not adhere to safety standards.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a former Chapel Hill student and self-proclaimed “die-hard” Tar Heels fan, told reporters on Thursday that he would be too busy dealing with the pandemic to attend a UNC football game this year. While he didn't comment directly on whether he'd feel safe bringing his family to a game and sitting in the stands alongside other fans, he did express concerns about large gatherings on college campuses.

“Having a lot of people in one place can cause a super-spreader event,” he said.

UNC isn't the only campus with safety concerns.

East Carolina University shut down several parties during its opening weekend, including a mass gathering of about 400 people.

Many colleges in the state, such as ECU and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, plan to offer weekly updates on the number of students who test positive for the virus.

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Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.

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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.