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'It's an experiment' | Meck Co. Health director says college campuses will see COVID-19 cases, not sure how many

In a few weeks, 30,000 students will be heading back to class at UNCC. Health officials believe that COVID-19 is likely to follow.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — In a back-to-school season like no other, health officials are concerned that the return to campus will come along with new COVID-19 cases.

Zip code 28223, which consists of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has had only three confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 dashboard. 

Health officials believe that will soon change as students head back to campus — and in a few weeks, 30,000 students will be heading back to class at UNCC.

"There's a lot of room for error because there's so many of us," UNCC student Daisy Vazquez said, adding she doesn't think students will always follow protocols. 

Some students feel confident that 49ers can follow the plan, though.

"I think as long as we follow some safety protocols, we will be fine," UNCC student Chunyu He said.

UNCC has a plan in place to try to prevent COVID-19 and mitigate it if it pops up. Every student will get a welcome bag filled with masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer. Additionally, signs are going up around on campus signaling what students can and cannot do. 

One thing is for sure: masks are required. 

RELATED: UNC Charlotte to test wastewater for COVID-19

UNCC Chancellor Sharon Gaber said new rules will be enforced, including parties and large gatherings. The consequences could even include suspensions.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris has confidence in the plan, but isn't completely sold on it.

"It's an experiment, right," Harris said. "We don't know exactly what's going to happen."

Health officials say cases will pop up, but they aren't sure how many. Harris said the systems in place are set to manage COVID-19 cases. In the meantime, university leaders and health officials will likely be watching closely to see what adjustments need to be made.