GREENSBORO, N.C. — Coronavirus clusters have emerged at campuses across North Carolina. It's prompted officials at North Carolina A&T State University to threaten a crackdown on students who violate social distancing rules.
Wednesday was the first day of classes and masks are required for students and staff. Some classes are being held in person while others are online.
"My first class today that I had was actually an in-person class. The teacher made sure that we were all spread out significantly and we all had to wear a mask throughout the class," Kiyah Gause of Whiteville said.
Gause is a first-year student at NC A&T State and moved on campus last week. She is complying with the mask-wearing mandate along with thousands of other students. As part of the mandate, students must also stand six-feet apart while in lines at the student center.
University officials are trying to learn from the mistakes of UNC-Chapel Hill. The premier state institution had to move all undergraduate courses back online this week after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. Another cluster of outbreaks has also been linked to Appalachian State University's football team while cases continue to grow at North Carolina State University as well as East Carolina University.
"I actually am very nervous that we're going to be back to all online and as a matter fact, right now, they started switching a few back-and-forths between the two," said sophomore Monique Lowe.
NC A&T State University's chancellor, Dr. Harold L. Martin, said they mean business when urging students to follow social distancing rules. Large student gatherings on and off-campus have also been prohibited. He warned anyone who willfully violates the rules would be penalized and could face citations from local law enforcement.
"We would not like to do that but are prepared to do so, and students living in our residence halls and are violating gatherings in this manner, these students are being dealt with harshly through our student judicial system," Martin said.
Several signs reminding students about CDC guidelines as well as social distancing floor markers have been placed around entrances and hallways of school buildings. Hand sanitizer stations were also prominently placed at doorways and common areas on campus.
Universities in North Carolina are providing weekly updates, and some have offered minimal details on COVID-19 clusters and sources of outbreaks. Mandy Cohen, the state's top public health official, said her department cannot legally require the campuses to report information about coronavirus hot spots.
Officials advise students and staff to visit their COVID-19 information page for details about guidelines and available health resources.
NC A&T Economic Impact Analysis
At a virtual news conference, Wednesday, Martin released the results of a new analysis revealing a statewide economic impact of nearly $1.5 billion. Data which was drawn from between 2017 and 2018, showed the university's growth in enrollment, workforce, spending, and construction. The university added $500 million more to the local economy compared to 2012-2013 when it was last measured.
Martin said while the $1.5-billion impact is mostly concentrated in Guilford County and the Piedmont Triad, it reaches across the state of North Carolina.
"As a public, land grant university, we have a special obligation to the people of this state, and this new analysis details the significance of our efforts in fulfilling that expectation," Martin said.
"As part of the $1.5 billion impact, for instance, we're responsible for nearly 12,000 jobs and $70 million in state and local taxes. That makes A&T not only an outstanding research university but a strong economic catalyst for Guilford County, the Piedmont Triad, and the state of North Carolina," he said.
Key highlights include:
- North Carolina A&T generates $16 of economic activity for every dollar of investment from the State of North Carolina.
- A&T graduates from 2017-18 can count on lifetime earnings totaling $4.7 billion, which includes $2.1 billion in incremental earnings directly attributable to their A&T degree. Individually, an A&T degree is worth an additional $1.01 million over a graduate’s lifetime.
- Between 2012-13 when economic impact was last measured and 2017-18, A&T added nearly 2,000 students and 340 more graduates each year.
- A&T was responsible for 10,265 jobs in the Piedmont Triad, and total labor income of $409 million.
See Full Economic Impact Analysis Here