COVID Discussion with Chancellor


    Cummings has been Chancellor since July 2015. Image/UNCP

    By: Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief

    There has been much discussion about campus returning to normal functions despite the spike in the Omicron variant cases. As of Jan. 25, the state positivity rate is 36.4%. Upon reentry to campus, UNCP has tested 3,073 faculty, staff and students, with only 180 positive results. This gives UNCP a 5.9% positivity rate.

    This is a stark difference with Robeson County having a 35.5% positivity rate. 

    According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of the state’s adult population has been vaccinated with two doses or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. Robeson County’s rate is 41%.

    Last semester a campus-wide survey was sent out and 90% of the faculty, staff and students who responded indicated they were fully vaccinated.

    Campus has encouraged vaccination by a variety of means, including incentives. Currently the university has over 1,000 $100 gift cards. Students who upload proof of their booster shot will receive the gift card while supplies last.

    Faculty and staff are also eligible for the $100 gift cards as well this semester.

    Due to UNCP being a public institution, the vaccine is not mandated for any students, faculty or staff. The North Carolina Commission for Public Health and the state legislature are the only two entities that have the authority to mandate a vaccine in the state.

    The only school in the UNC system to start virtually was UNC-Charlotte and began in-person learning on Jan. 24.

    UNCP’s COVID response team has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic and consists of representation from academic affairs, student affairs, athletics, housing, student health services and other departments across campus. 

    The response team met over Winter break and came to the decision to allow a return to campus as the surge of Omicron declines.

    UNCP was one of three schools that delayed by a week. The other two schools were Elizabeth City State University and Fayetteville State University.

    Chancellor Robin Cummings said the team lets the data that is available to drive the decisions made in response to the pandemic.

    “My rationale was I wanted to wait a week to allow the Christmas and New Year holiday surge we were expecting to abate,” Cummings said. “The second reason was that all the models and projections were saying Omicron would peak about the last week of January, and by the first of February we should start seeing a definite decline in cases.”

    Cummings said that Omicron’s behavior in other countries has allowed the United States to predict how it may behave domestically.

    “We can look at other countries and we have a pretty good idea of modeling how this thing is going to play out. We also know the Omicron variant is highly contagious, much more contagious than any of the Alpha, Beta or Delta variants,” Cummings said. “It’s very infectious, but we now know it’s not as virulent as Delta.”

    The symptoms of Omicron tend to be stuffy nose, runny nose, nasal congestion, a dry cough and other upper airway symptoms, as opposed to Delta that would make its way to the lungs of the host.

    “We are in a pandemic now, widespread infection. Eventually we will be in an endemic. Which means it becomes part of that family of viruses that affect us on a yearly basis like the flu,” Cummings said.

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