- University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will be pivoting to remote learning for its undergraduate students after 135 people tested positive for the coronavirus during the first week of in-person instruction on campus.
- The Daily Tar Heel, UNC-Chapel Hill’s student paper, slammed the school’s reopening strategy and believed the school should have done more to prevent COVID-19 clusters from popping up on campus.
- College towns across the country are bracing for potential virus surges as students return. Students at the University of North Georgia sparked concerns after a viral video showed students partying in close capacity without masks.
- These concerns are furthered by data that shows young adults are driving the spread of COVID-19.
UNC Chapel Hill Goes Remote
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill announced Monday that it will be pivoting its undergraduate instruction to remote learning after the school saw 135 coronavirus cases just one week after in-person classes began.
Classes started on August 10. Between then and August 16, 130 students and five teachers tested positive, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard. The positivity rate has also jumped significantly. During that week, they tested 954 students and had a 13.6% positivity rate. The week prior only resulted in a 2.8% positivity rate.
According to an email sent to students, 177 students are in isolation and 349 are in quarantine both on and off-campus. UNC-Chapel Hill expects students to change their residential plans and will look for other ways to reduce population density on its campus. Students who request to cancel residence hall requests will not face a penalty and certain students will have the option to remain in dorms.
Remote learning will begin on Wednesday.
Prior Concerns at UNC-Chapel Hill
While officials at the school said the decision to shut in-person instruction down after reopening was a difficult one, many in the UNC-Chapel Hill community thought this was nearly inevitable.
Quintana Stewart, the Health Director for Orange County, North Carolina, had previously stated her opposition to students returning too quickly. At the end of July, she said that if students return to campus, the area could “quickly become a hot spot for new cases as thousands of students from all across the country [and] world merge onto the UNC campus and begin to interact in a manner very normal for college students.”
Students were also among those who were skeptical about the university’s plans to get students back. One day before the school announced classes would be going online, their school paper, The Daily Tar Heel, put out an editorial addressing rumored and reported coronavirus clusters that had popped up on campus. The title of the piece was “We All Saw This Coming.”
“University leadership should have expected students, many of whom are now living on their own for the first time, to be reckless,” the editorial board wrote. “Reports of parties throughout the weekend come as no surprise. Though these students are not faultless, it was the University’s responsibility to disincentivize such gatherings by reconsidering its plans to operate in-person earlier on.”
According to The Daily Tar Heel, school officials ignored recommendations about housing and online instruction that the local department of health gave them. They also ignored guidance from the Centers of Disease Control, which placed their housing plan in the “highest risk” category.
“The administration continues to prove they have no shame, and the bar for basic decency keeps getting lower,” the editorial continued.
UNC-Chapel Hill dubbed its reopening plans a “Roadmap for Fall 2020.” The editorial board has little faith in that plan.
“One thing’s for sure — this roadmap leads straight to hell,” they concluded.
Fears In Other College Towns
COVID-19 concerns don’t stop at UNC-Chapel Hill. They extend to colleges and college towns across the country. As students return to campus, they could potentially create virus hubs not just in their schools, but in the whole community. Now, college towns are bracing for surges in their areas once kids make their way back.
These concerns are not unfounded. In Boston, where students make up around 20% of the city’s population, two schools already have confirmed COVID-19 cases. Boston College is hiring a police detail just to shut down parties because of coronavirus concerns.
Parties are a high priority concern when it comes to coronavirus spread on college campuses. Unsanctioned get-togethers are all but guaranteed, and the odds of students standing six feet apart from one another are probably less than favorable.
At the University of North Georgia, students made headlines after a viral video showed a massive party of college students who had recently returned just days before classes were set to resume. That video shows groups standing shoulder to shoulder outside, with most students opting to not wear a face mask.
Cases in the state of Georgia remain high and young adults are actually leading coronavirus spread in the state. However, this is not unique to Georgia. A representative for the World Health Organization told Reuters that infections in young people are on the rise and could impact vulnerable people in densely populated areas.
“The epidemic is changing,” WHO Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, said. “People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread,”
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (The News & Observer) (The Guardian)
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Police in Two Qualified Immunity Cases
The move further solidifies the contentious legal doctrine that protects officers who commit alleged constitutional violations.
SCOTUS Hears Qualified Immunity Cases
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police in two separate cases involving qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields officers accused of violating constitutional rights from lawsuits.
The topic has become a major flashpoint in debates over police reform and curbing police violence since the protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2020.
On one side, supporters of qualified immunity claim it is necessary to ensure that police can do their jobs without worrying about frivolous lawsuits.
However, opponents argue that judicial interpretations of the doctrine over time have given police incredibly broad legal immunity for misconduct and use of excessive force. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, in order for officers to be held liable, plaintiffs have to show that they violated rights “clearly established” by a previous ruling.
In other words, officers cannot be held liable unless there is another case that involves almost identical circumstances.
As a result, many argue the doctrine creates a Catch-22: Officers are shielded from liability because there is no past precedent, but the reason there is no past precedent is because officers are shielded from liability in the first place.
An Ongoing Debate
Critics argue that the two cases the Supreme Court saw Monday illustrate that double bind, as both involved accusations of excessive force commonly levied against police.
In one case, officers used non-lethal bean bag rounds against a suspect and knelt on his back to subdue him. In the other, police shot and killed a suspect after he threatened them with a hammer.
The justices overturned both lower-court rulings without ordering full briefing and argument because of the lack of precedent. The court issued the decisions in unsigned orders with no dissent, signaling they did not even see the cases as close calls.
Advocates for qualified immunity claim the decisions signal that the current Supreme Court is not open to changing qualified immunity, and the most likely path for opponents of the doctrine is legislation.
While Democrats in Congress have made numerous efforts to limit qualified immunity, including most recently in the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed by the House earlier this year, all those attempts have been blocked by Republicans.
At the state level, dozens of bills have been killed after heavy lobbying from police unions. As a result, it remains unclear what path proponents for reform have at this juncture.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.