I’m on the scene in Downtown Chapel Hill for @dailytarheel pic.twitter.com/Dyv5qx3Cse
— Claire Perry (@sclaire_perry) February 7, 2021
Hundreds of UNC-Chapel Hill fans swarmed the intersection of Columbia and Franklin Streets Saturday evening to revel in Carolina’s win over Duke University in the latest installment of “the greatest rivalry in sports.” A sea of people clad in light blue withstood the rain and chilly February night to celebrate the way generations of Tar Heels fans have always celebrated before.
This age-old tradition still happened in February 2021, following months COVID-19 ravaging the state. The unranked Tar Heels (12-6) beat the unranked Blue Devils (7-7) by four points in an empty Cameron Indoor Stadium minutes before people flooded onto the blacktop.
“I know many Tar Heels enjoy rushing Franklin Street to celebrate a big win, but we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and COVID doesn’t take a break for the Duke game,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz tweeted Saturday night. “We will investigate this incident and work with local authorities to pursue consequences.”
UNC is supposed to start in-person classes on Monday following a three-week remote start to the spring semester. In spite of this, many students had already returned to town before Saturday night; dormitories moved students in back in January. The university has already had issues with students partying this semester, as documented in the student-run Instagram account @whereyallgoin_unc.
The university’s dashboard notes that 342 cases of COVID-19 have appeared among students and staff since January 2021, out of nearly 40,000 administered tests. Four residence halls—Avery, Carmichael, Connor, and Morrison—are currently dealing with clusters ranging from five to 12 infections. The university has also tallied 179 reports of COVID-19 violations since November, with 88 resulting in some sort of disciplinary action and nine students removed from on-campus housing. While the university has said it would potentially remove students from their classes for violations, there have been no reports of this.
Franklin Street did not appear to be equipped for the rush, as it normally is in the event of a UNC-Duke game. In footage from multiple news organizations, cars heading down Columbia Street are blocked by bodies instead of the usual barriers. Eventually, the Chapel Hill Fire Department drove through the scene to clear everyone out.
The Chapel Hill Police Department did not release a statement on how it would enforce the state’s stay-at-home order. The department also made no mention of enforcements on Twitter (although it did share a GIF of UNC Coach Roy Williams before the game started).
Students, alumni, and locals shared their disappointment across social media, and in conversation. Kevin G’s Big L Meme Self-Quarantine (UNC), the Facebook group students and younger alumni use to share memes about the university’s shenanigans, has already seen several posts about the crowd. On the other side of the UNC meme aisle, UNC Barstool—the localized iteration of the infamous Barstool Sports—tweeted “RUSH FRANKLIN” as the game ended.
“I used to be mad at antimaskers,” Mandey Brown, owner of Imbibe and Zog’s in Chapel Hill, wrote to the INDY in a text message. “But now I’m mad at the people who have the power to stop shit like this but instead of [doing] that, they stop me from opening my bar.”
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