RALEIGH, N.C. — Move-in for students at North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other schools around the state is starting this week.

In Raleigh, wide-eyed freshmen walked Hillsborough Street and move-in trucks crowded tight roads around off-campus housing. Students and their parents rushed to get things moved in before the temperature, already in the 90s, got even hotter as the afternoon wore on.

Move-in day is an annual ritual, and it’s almost always a hot one in August in North Carolina. But students, and their parents, are all wary of what happened last year. Students in Raleigh and Chapel Hill moved in and barely got in a couple weeks of classes before coronavirus cases spread across campuses and shut down schools again, sending classes back online.

What You Need To Know

  • Undergraduates started moving into dorms at N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and other universities in North Carolina Thursday

  • Last year, spikes in coronavirus case numbers at universities closed several campuses, including in Raleigh and Chapel Hill

  • After dropping over the summer, coronavirus cases are increasing again in North Carolina

  • Many universities are requiring students to either be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID tests

People hope this year will be different, with vaccines available and face mask requirements at most colleges and universities in the state.

“I don’t want to do online school again,” said Knox Long, a junior at N.C. State majoring in business. “I’d rather work, I already told my parents. I didn’t learn anything.”

In Chapel Hill, the university reported its first coronavirus case cluster on Wednesday, the day before move-in started for undergraduates.

“The University has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases related to an event in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. A 'cluster' is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location and/or are epidemiologically linked,” UNC said in a brief statement.

UNC, N.C. State, Duke University and most other schools in the state are requiring everyone to wear masks inside, with some exceptions like while eating or in a dorm room.

The coronavirus situation was looking better over the summer as schools planned to bring students back on campus, but in the past month the number of cases have started to climb again in North Carolina.

The state reported 5,900 new coronavirus cases Thursday, numbers not seen in North Carolina since February, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital is way up too, from just a couple hundred earlier this summer to more than 2,400 on Thursday. And the numbers show no signs of leveling out as schools start back.

Students walk down Hillsborough Street in Raleigh on the first day of move-in at N.C. State University. (Photo: Charles Duncan)


The delta variant, which is more contagious, is fueling the new increases in COVID case numbers, public health officials say.

In Charlotte, Novant Health’s chief medical and scientific officer Dr. Eric Eskioglu said he thinks the health system could see a coronavirus surge that is as bad or worse than they saw in January.

"Unfortunately, we have more than a 1,000% increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions today compared to just three weeks ago,” he said in a statement released by DHHS.

“The average age of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is also 44, down from 61 in January. More than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated, and they are sicker than the patients we saw during earlier surges,” Eskioglu said.

Most of North Carolina’s big universities will require students to either prove they’re vaccinated or submit to regular testing. At N.C. State, more than 25,000 students, faculty and staff have either been vaccinated on campus or given the school proof of vaccination.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, 84% of students and 76% of faculty and staff have reported getting vaccinated, according to the university.

For students, many are just hoping to have something closer to a normal semester this fall.

Hutch Manning, a sophomore in construction engineering at N.C. State, said he hoped to finish moving into his off-campus apartment by early afternoon.

“It’s a little warm,” he said as his parent helped carry things in from a small U-Haul rental truck.

“I’m just hoping that maybe we’ll be able to be back in the classroom this year, actually be able to stick it out and not just go online,” he said. “I’m just really hoping to get the college experience that I came here for.”