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Wake Forest optimistic for semester; Elon heightens alert

As one North Carolina university heightens its alert level in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, another school expects its students will be able to remain on campus well into the fall.

Elon University raised its alert level to high on Monday after 32 positive tests among students were reported last Friday and 20 more positive tests were reported over the weekend, the News & Record of Greensboro reported.

Another eight positive tests among students were reported Monday, the newspaper reported.

In its announcement Monday, Elon officials said the increase in new cases “has been mainly through close social interactions among individuals and small groups without wearing masks or proper distancing. There is no evidence that the surge in cases is due to large parties or to interactions in classrooms, campus facilities or dining halls.”

Elon has taken a number of steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some in-person classes where significant numbers of students have tested positive will move online temporarily. All residence halls have been closed to visitors, and all students living in campus housing with shared bathrooms have been assigned to a specific bathroom.

Elon University is 51 miles (82 kilometers) east of Wake Forest University, where President Nathan Hatch sent a letter to faculty and staff on Monday saying he found news of the school’s progress during the pandemic encouraging.

“I believe that if the first four weeks are any indication, I am confident that we have the ability to remain on campus to Thanksgiving,” Hatch said. “Students want to be here, and we want them here.”

Wake Forest will end in-person instruction on Thanksgiving as the weather turns colder and the cold and flu season begins. After the late November break, students will finish their fall semester classes remotely and take exams online in mid-December.

Wake Forest opened its fall semester last month with a mix of online, hybrid and face-to-face instruction. Hatch said Wake Forest is now planning for its spring semester that starts in January. Classes are scheduled to begin Jan. 11.

As of Tuesday, Wake Forest has reported 58 cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks and 121 since mid-August, according to the university’s online dashboard.

UNC Charlotte announced Tuesday that it would resume in-person instruction on Oct. 1 in specific areas of study. The school said it would move to all online/remote classes following the Thanksgiving break, including all exams.

UNCC Chancellor Sharon Gaber cited a continuing decline in the rate of COVID-19 infection in Mecklenburg County as well as the school’s safety protocols in making the decision.

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