UNCW implements three-strikes policy for unvaccinated students, staff, faculty

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The University of North Carolina Wilmington is implementing a policy for unvaccinated students, staff, and faculty.

Those who participate in on-campus classes or activities who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 must undergo weekly surveillance testing. If students fail to participate in that testing, they could face serious consequences.

UNCW Student Health Center director Katrin Wesner-Harts says the university is now operating on a three-strike policy when it comes to testing.

“If anyone misses three either in a row or over the course of the semester, a residential student would lose their housing contract with no refund,” Wesner-Harts said. “An off-campus student or a faculty or staff member would lose their access to the UNCW computing network.”

The university currently offers testing locations at both ends of campus Monday through Friday. Students scan their ID, use a self-swab, and get their results within 24 hours.

Residential students who test positive must quarantine either at a designated location on campus, or with family.

Sophomore David Diaz, who is not vaccinated due to medical reasons, says the process is fairly easy.

“It’s not a burden, it takes five minutes if that,” Diaz said. “So if it’s a struggle for other people, they must be super busy, because it takes five minutes for me.”

Freshman Casey Pardue is vaccinated. She says the school’s COVID-19 policies for the fall semester played a part in her decision.

“Honestly I just got vaccinated so I wouldn’t have to get weekly tested, because if I was positive I would get kicked out of my dorm,” Pardue said, referring to the quarantine protocol. “So that’s why I got vaccinated.”

Both students feel the university’s three-strike policy, eliminating a student’s housing contract due to missing three COVID tests, is a bit harsh.

“I think that’s ridiculous, honestly,” Pardue said. “I mean I don’t really think that anybody should have to be tested unless they’re feeling sick.”

“I think that it’s extreme, very extreme, and I don’t know where that person would go, honestly,” Diaz said. “I guess it’s beyond me.”

Wesner-Harts says most students have followed the policy, and those who have missed a test have contacted her office.

“Last week I sent out those emails and I got lots back that said ‘oh my gosh I forgot,’ ‘here’s my vaccination card,’ ‘oh I’m fully remote,'” she said.

Next week will be the first opportunity for a third strike. Wesner-Harts says based on feedback from last week, she doesn’t expect to have to exercise the housing punishment.

“If we send out that second notice and then we see that they haven’t come for their third, we’re going to call, we’re going to email, we’re going to text,” She said. “We’re really going to try to get folks in here and find out what’s the issue. We absolutely won’t turn anyone’s access off without making every effort we can.”

On Monday night, Chancellor Jose Sartarelli announced the university’s current pandemic-related guidelines would be extended through at least October 15.

The university does offer free on-campus vaccinations for everyone.

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