Duke confirms first COVID-19 cluster, identified on Monday

Duke has identified its first student COVID-19 cluster, in the Solis Brightleaf apartment complex in Durham. 

The cluster, first reported by WRAL, includes nine students in the apartment building on West Main Street, Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, confirmed to The Chronicle. 

The cluster was identified on Monday, Oct. 12, and McMahon characterized it as “one friend group” within the broader apartment building. It was not publicly announced by Duke prior to WRAL’s reporting, although McMahon said that an email about the cluster was sent to all Solis Brightleaf residents earlier in the week. 

Seven of the students were already in precautionary quarantine when they tested positive, Duke told WRAL. That quarantine came after the first member of the Solis cluster tested positive through Duke’s coronavirus testing program. 

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that Duke is also communicating with non-Duke residents of Solis.

As part of that communication, which is a joint effort with Durham County Public Health and Solis management, all non-students living in the apartment complex have been offered a COVID-19 test at a downtown Duke test site. Durham County Public Health was also notified about the test results and Duke’s contact tracing. 

Meanwhile, the students living in the complex “were informed of the situation on Monday night and have had enhanced mandatory surveillance testing this week,” Schoenfeld wrote. 

That Monday notification email went out only to students living in Solis because that contact tracing pointed to “no added risk to the broader Duke community,” Schoenfeld wrote. 

The students—and all others who test positive on or off-campus—are also being monitored by Duke Student Health, who must clear all students before they’re released from isolation. 

A drop-in meeting was set up Monday for residents to talk to administrators, and Duke is monitoring the health of those who have tested positive. 

“We’re watching it carefully,” McMahon said.

This is a developing story and will be updated if new information becomes available. 


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