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Universities scramble to deal with virus outbreaks

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Copyright 2020, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Baylor Garland, left, arrives to move in for his freshman year, assisted by his father Alan, right and mother, Teena, after they arrived from Eaton, Ga., at the University of Alabama on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. More than 20,000 students returned to campus for the first time since spring break with numerous school and city codes in effect to limit the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

North Carolina's flagship university canceled in-person classes for undergraduates just a week into the fall semester Monday as college campuses around the U.S. scramble to deal with coronavirus clusters linked in some cases to student housing, off-campus parties and packed bars.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will switch to remote learning on Wednesday and make arrangements for students who want to leave campus housing.

“We have emphasized that if we were faced with the need to change plans — take an off-ramp — we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” it said in a statement after reporting 130 confirmed infections among students and five among employees over the past week.

UNC said the clusters were discovered in dorms, a fraternity house and other student housing.

Before the decision came down, the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial headlined, “UNC has a clusterf—k on its hands," though without the dashes.

The paper said that the parties that took place over the weekend were no surprise and that administrators should have begun the semester with online-only instruction at the university, which has 19,000 undergraduates.

“We all saw this coming,” the editorial said.

Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study — and party — in close quarters.