As COVID Cases Plateau, In-Person Commencement Returns to UNC This May

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The first UNC in-person commencement ceremonies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will take place this May.

President Andy Feinstein announced the university’s plans to hold undergraduate commencement ceremonies in-person this past January. At the time of that announcement, Weld County still maintained an average of over 150 new COVID-19 cases per-day, but that number has declined since then.

Since around mid-February, Weld County’s case numbers have plateaued at an approximate average of 50-70 new cases per-day as more and more people receive one or more doses of a coronavirus vaccine. That number could potentially go down even more in the coming weeks, as Colorado opened vaccine eligibility to the general public Friday.

Still, even with the declining rate of new coronavirus cases, commencement ceremonies will likely have limits on how many people can attend. The university website says the exact number of guests allowed to attend the in-person events is yet to be determined, as Weld County’s status on the state’s COVID-19 dial may change before May. The county is currently classified as “level yellow,” which limits the capacity of certain events.

The newly expanded vaccine eligibility is a sign of hope for many that capacity at commencement could be fairly sizable. However, Governor Jared Polis predicts that most adults will not be vaccinated until around mid-to-late May.

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UNC alumni who graduated in spring of 2020 are invited to attend the ceremonies and walk along with the class of 2021. When spring 2020 commencement ceremonies were canceled, the university initially told graduates that they would be invited to attend in-person ceremonies in December of that year. But as COVID-19 cases only continued to increase, the December ceremonies were not able to be held in-person either. Fall 2020 graduates are also invited to attend the in-person ceremonies this May.

Students who do not feel comfortable attending the upcoming in-person ceremonies due to concerns over safety can choose to walk at a different ceremony at some point in the future. These students are required to contact the Alumni Association if they choose to do so.

In-person commencement ceremonies will be held on a college-by-college basis on May 8 and May 9. They are set to take place outside on Nottingham Field, but will move to the Bank of Colorado Arena if weather does not permit an outdoor ceremony.

All attendees will be required to wear a protective face covering in line with the university’s on-campus mask policy.

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