WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In an effort to stem the tide of rising coronavirus infections in college-aged individuals in the county, UNCW is offering first-year students who have roommates at on-campus residence halls the chance to move into single-room dorms for the remainder of the academic year or return home.
In a letter sent to some students Tuesday morning, UNCW officials say the New Hanover County Health Department approached the university with its concerns about an increasing number of infections in the 18- to 24-year-old population, which includes most UNCW students.
According to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard, 242 students and four faculty members have tested positive for the virus since July 2020.
“Although the University already has many health and safety protocols in place and has operated consistently with state and federal guidelines, we are taking an additional decisive action to assist our community in lowering the spread of this coronavirus by reducing the number of students in shared bedrooms on the UNCW campus,” the email stated.
“In the coming days, a member of the Residence Life staff will ask you or your roommate to move to a single room. This room will likely be in one of our other residence halls or apartments," the email continued.
Students who opt to move to a new room will remain there for the rest of the academic year. If the new space is more expensive, students will not be charged extra, but if it is less expensive, students will receive a prorated refund.
If students opt to not move to a new room, they will be allowed to return home for the remainder of the fall. Students who choose this option will be allowed to keep the same assignment for the spring and receive a prorated refund for housing and dining the rest of the fall.
Students will also not be allowed to relocate to off-campus housing within the Wilmington community unless it’s with their parents or legal guardians.
This move will affect approximately 800 of the 3,600 students who live on campus. Those that received the letter will have until Sept. 10 to make a decision, with students relocated or moved home by Sept 16.
“While this is not how we wanted your first semester to be, we are taking this action so that our fall term together may continue (which we know is important to many of you). UNCW will continue to meet our public health obligations and assist the county health officials, and we thank you in advance for doing your part to support this process,” the email stated.
Kayleigh Erman is a freshman student who says she understands why leaders made the change, but accepted the news with a heavy heart. She actually had the virus and recently moved out of one of the university’s quarantine dorms—she knows firsthand how lonely it can be without a roommate.
“It’s just part of college is having a roommate with you I mean I guess the school is just trying to accommodate us without sending us home which is nice but it just sucks especially after being alone for so long because of Covid and now we finally get to have a roommate and I love her," said Erman. “We have no choice but to keep accepting things that we can’t control which sucks because college moving to college is such a huge change that we have to adapt to and then all of this stuff like I moved three times in the past six months it just an hour moving again and I feel like we’re going to eventually be sent home anyway.”
John Minnich is a freshmen and says having to decide which roommate stays and which goes has taken a toll on many friendships already and admits its been a tough morning since getting the news.
Like Erman, he also wasn’t surprised to see big changes in response to the virus. Minnich says he came into his first year at UNCW accepting he and his classmates could likely be sent home before the end of the year.
“There’s definitely kids that are out not being as cautious as they should be and unfortunately that’s kind of what to put us in this situation but at the same time we’re gonna come in contact with it and it’s going to spread until there’s a cure there’s not much we can do and we’re just gonna have to battle it out and do the best we can to survive it,” said Minnich.