Disparity in COVID cases seen at colleges around Charlotte, as some mandate vaccines

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Vaccine requirements may be working for some Charlotte-area colleges that are reporting just a handful of COVID-19 cases among students and staff weeks into the fall semester.

Meanwhile, two of Charlotte’s higher education institutions without a vaccine requirement are reporting upwards of 100 cases each in the fall semester — although those cases account for less than 1% of total student populations at each school.

UNC Charlotte reported the largest number of active COVID-19 cases of the Charlotte-area universities surveyed by the Observer. It also has the biggest student population at roughly 30,000 students.

The university has 185 active cases of COVID-19 in employees and students who have been on-campus in the past 14 days, it reported on an online dashboard.

Vaccine mandates at local colleges and universities could help boost vaccination rates in Mecklenburg, county health director Gibbie Harris told the Observer recently.

“Vaccine mandates — if you can make it happen, that’s wonderful,” she said about requirements at colleges. “That just means more people getting vaccinated, and that’s the trend that we need to see.”

But even without vaccine mandates, all of the higher education institutions that reported vaccination rates for students and staff far outpace Mecklenburg County’s vaccination rate among residents. Just 54% of county residents are fully vaccinated. The local colleges and universities that reported vaccination rates ranged from 74% to 99%.

Here are the reports from Charlotte-area colleges and universities.

UNC Charlotte

Nearly 2% of COVID-19 tests administered by the university in the last week were positive for COVID-19 for students and employees, according to the university.

That rate is much better than Mecklenburg County’s overall positivity rate of 12.3% as of Sept. 8.

As of Monday, 87% of faculty and staff at the university, 81% of residential students and 74% of students taking on-campus classes are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The university does not require students and employees to get the COVID-19 vaccines.

So far in September, 186 students and 22 employees have reported positive cases of COVID-19.

Johnson C. Smith University

JCSU reports just three active cases of COVID-19 among students and employees in the past week, as of Tuesday.

That may not encompass all active cases among students and employees, as some cases are self-reported to the university.

JCSU required students, faculty and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine to return to campus for the fall 2021 semester. In 2020, JCSU had roughly 1,300 students.

Central Piedmont Community College

CPCC has reported 47 new cases of COVID-19 since Sept. 1.

Since August, the community college has seen a total 151 positive cases of COVID-19 among students, employees and vendors.

Six of the new cases reported in September were among employees, and 41 were reported among students.

A Queens University News Service survey of 13 N.C. colleges and universities within 65 miles of Charlotte found that at least six will not require COVID-19 vaccinations for students returning in the fall. Two of the largest schools, UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College (pictured here), will not require vaccinations.
A Queens University News Service survey of 13 N.C. colleges and universities within 65 miles of Charlotte found that at least six will not require COVID-19 vaccinations for students returning in the fall. Two of the largest schools, UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College (pictured here), will not require vaccinations.

In total, since August, 129 students at CPCC — out of a total 15,000 to 16,000 students taking fall classes — have reported positive cases of COVID-19, spokesman Jeff Lowrance told the Observer.

Some of those recent cases were reported before classes started, and those students did not return to campus until after their quarantine, Lowrance said.

Davidson College

Davidson reported four active COVID-19 cases among students as of Friday.

Since the semester started, Davidson has seen a total of 10 cases, spokesman Jay Pfeifer told the Observer in an email.

Nearly 99% of students are vaccinated against COVID-19, he said. And 92% of employees are vaccinated.

Davidson required all faculty, staff and students to submit proof of full vaccination or approved exemptions. Davidson has nearly 2,000 students.

Unvaccinated people must comply with weekly testing — with a more than $1,200 testing fee per semester — and wearing a mask, according to Davidson.

Queens University of Charlotte

So far in September, 19 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported among students and employees at Queens University, according to the university’s online dashboard.

In early September, 90% of all students and more than 95% of staff and faculty had been vaccinated, spokesman Keith Pierce told the Observer in an email. Queens has roughly 2,400 students.

Queens required the COVID-19 vaccines for all students, faculty and staff returning to campus.

Johnson & Wales University

Nearly 80% of Johnson & Wales’ in-person students are vaccinated, according to spokeswoman Melinda Law.

Last week, the university had six positive cases of COVID-19 among students, Law said in an email to the Observer. The university has more than 1,300 students.

JWU students, faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated or provide a medical or religious exemption.

Unvaccinated people must participate in mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing, according to the university.