UNC-Chapel Hill’s move to online classes is the ‘canary in the coal mine’

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has had a turbulent week. Within only a few days of restarting fall classes in-person, school officials identified four outbreaks of the COVID-19 disease and coronavirus tests turned up more than 130 positive cases. 

Officials made the call Monday to transition all undergraduate classes online for the rest of the term and promised not to penalize students who leave campus housing. It’s the first major university to pivot from in-person to remote instruction after beginning fall classes, and higher education and health experts say the move doesn’t bode well for other colleges. 

They agree not all colleges will suffer UNC-Chapel Hill’s fate, especially if they have robust testing and contact tracing. But schools should be aware of, and try to avoid, the weak points in the university’s reopening plan that may have contributed to the abrupt transition online.

“UNC is the

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