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Testing, tracing, quarantine: How Duke will fight the coronavirus on campus this fall

From daily symptom monitoring to isolation procedures, Duke is implementing testing, tracing and quarantining to combat the spread of the coronavirus on campus this fall.

The precautions will begin before students even get to campus, according to the University’s reopening FAQ.

According to the FAQ, students who live outside of Durham should try to get a COVID-19 test and self-quarantine for two weeks in their current location before coming to campus. Those who test positive or are symptomatic before returning are required to stay in their current locations and not come to campus until cleared by physicians or Student Health.

In addition to pre-campus precautions, the University will test all students living in Duke-provided and off-campus housing. First-years and sophomores must be tested for their Duke cards to be activated and before they can move into their housing assignments. 

Tests will be a nasal swab and results are expected within 24 hours, during which all students are required to “sequester in their residence hall or off-campus home,” the FAQ reads.

During the sequestering period, students who are not symptomatic must strictly limit outside movement and activity but are permitted to pick up to-go food from designated Duke Dining locations, run essential errands and spend time outdoors “in a manner that does not increase the potential spread of COVID-19,” according to the FAQ. 

Non-symptomatic students living off-campus should “make appropriate arrangements for food and necessary supplies” during the sequestering period. 

The FAQ notes that students with “known recent COVID-19 exposure or who meet criteria” during testing at Penn Pavilion will be quarantined. 

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in a message to The Chronicle that students who live in Duke housing and need to be quarantined will be transported and housed in East House and Jarvis residence halls on East Campus. 

Duke has “access to additional capacity in university owned hotels if needed,” he wrote.  

According to the FAQ, this includes the recently purchased Lodge at Duke Medical Center hotel, increasing the number of quarantining beds to more than 250. 

Schoenfeld wrote that the Lodge purchase had been in process “for a while before the coronavirus hit,” but in the near term the hotel will be a backup location for student quarantine and isolation if needed. Students who live off campus will be expected to quarantine at home, as will faculty and staff.

During the quarantine, students will be monitored by health-care professionals from Student Health, the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine or Duke Hospital, who must clear students before they can return to their Duke housing, in-person classes and other University facilities. 

Off-campus students will be able to access Student Health through Duke Urgent Care and Duke Primary Care locations. 

After the undergraduate testing period from Aug. 6 to Aug. 15, graduate and professional students will be tested between Aug. 16 and Sept. 1. 

All students living in the Durham area and faculty and staff who regularly visit campus will also be required to complete a daily symptom-monitoring survey on an app, SymMon, available on the Google Play and Apple stores. 

The app, which requires a Duke login for verification, asks daily symptom questions such as, “How are you feeling today?”; “Since your last symptom report, have you had an exposure to a person with COVID illness and have NOT reported the exposure to Student Health?”; and “Do you have any of the following symptoms today?,” followed by a list of common COVID-19 symptoms.

Schoenfeld wrote that students will receive a daily text message at noon if they have not yet submitted the survey and will then have two hours to complete it before their DukeCard access is turned off. Once the survey is completed, their DukeCard will automatically turn back on or trigger clinical outreach depending on their survey answers. 

“Multiple missed days will trigger outreach from Student Affairs to see if 1. they are OK, [and] 2. if they have been going to class/visiting campus,” Schoenfeld wrote. “If they are OK but are avoiding survey completion, the matter will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.”

He wrote that the SymMon app was built by Duke Health, the Office of Information Technology, Student Health, Employee Health and other departments using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national public health recommendations.

All students living in Duke housing, graduate and professional students who attend classes or work on campus, and faculty and staff who frequently interact with students will be subject to “regular surveillance testing” throughout the semester, as stated in the FAQ. 

According to Schoenfeld, this means that a certain portion of the population will participate in regularly scheduled testing to monitor any potential outbreaks of the virus, pooling five to ten samples into a single test.

“If a particular pool tests positive then the samples are referred for further testing to isolate the positive individual, who would then be contacted by a medical professional for further action (testing, isolation, etc.),” Schoenfeld wrote. 

The FAQ mentioned that when students test positive, they will hear from a trained contact tracer from Durham County Public Health to determine whether others who have come in contact with them need to be referred for quarantine and testing. 

The University is required by law to report all positive tests to Durham Public Health, and students are required to provide information to public health agencies as needed.

The FAQ advises students who are ill to call Duke Student Health, and faculty and staff should call their health-care provider or Duke Employee Health. Any student, faculty or staff member who becomes symptomatic, or is referred by Employee Health or Student Health, will be tested. 

Tests will be conducted by clinicians from Student Health, Duke Hospital, the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine and other partners. 

Results are typically available within 24 hours, but that may change depending on testing volume in the Triangle and surrounding areas. 

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