File this under ‘that simmering sense of dread you feel about thousands of college students returning to your city this week to start in-person classes.’

According to the college resources site School Authority, which accesses and aggregates geo-tagged Twitter data, North Carolina is the No. 2 state in the nation where Twitter users have shown interest in obtaining fake COVID proof-of-vaccination cards.

The No. 1 state? That honor goes to Texas.

School Authority tracked more than 130,000 tweets, hashtags, and direct keyword phrases about fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, such as #fakevaccinecard, #fakecovidcard, “buy fake vaccine card,” “buy vaccine card” to create a map, pictured above, to show which states have reflected the most interest. 

School Authority started tracking interest in fake COVID vaccine cards after the website researched states with the most colleges and universities requiring COVID vaccinations (see map below).

In North Carolina, only private universities, such as Duke, can legally require students and faculty to get the COVID-19 vaccine. UNC-System schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill, will rely on a system of voluntary reporting, and, absent that, a weekly testing requirement.

Local businesses have already announced requirements for proof of vaccination and reports of North Carolina college students trying to buy fake vaccination cards have been circulating in the last week. 

UNC-CH has already identified a cluster of six COVID cases related to an “event” in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Move-in starts Thursday for thousands of students and classes begin next Wednesday. In a meeting today with UNC-CH Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, faculty members called on the university to require the COVID-19 vaccine for returning students and staff.

Guskiewicz said he agrees with a vaccine mandate and that he and Provost Bob Blouin are working with other chancellors to try to get a vaccine mandate in place. Guskiewicz also shared updated COVID-19 numbers: as of Tuesday, 84 percent of students who will be living and attending classes on campus attest to being vaccinated. About 64 percent of staff and 92 percent of faculty members say they are vaccinated.

But Guskiewicz emphasized the university has no intention of pivoting to remote learning or sending students home. He acknowledged there will be more clusters and, potentially, breakthrough cases. 

Something tells me it’s going to be a long fall semester. And it hasn’t even started. 

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