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In from the cold: Duke reopens single-person indoor dining tables

<p>A quiet Brodhead Center. Duke is making changes to dining this semester to stop the spread of the coronavirus.</p>

A quiet Brodhead Center. Duke is making changes to dining this semester to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

After several months of eating outside or in their rooms, students will now have access to limited indoor dining options, administrators told undergraduates on Tuesday.

In an email newsletter, Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, and Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, noted that all newly reopened seating options are standing tables for one person only. These tables are in the Brodhead Center, the Bryan Center, Trinity Café and Marketplace.

All on-campus indoor dining options have been shut down since Oct. 30, when indoor seats were roped off with yellow caution tape. Before this, tables in Marketplace for a time featured plexiglass dividers to inhibit the spread of the virus.

The initial closure of indoor seating was a response to a steadily climbing rate of COVID-19 cases in the Durham area and around the country, Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services, told The Chronicle when the tables were first closed off.

Coffey wrote in an email that the decision to allow only takeout and outdoor dining was based on findings from Duke Medical experts showing that eating with others, even in small groups, was a significant contributor to the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, Coffey wrote in an email to The Chronicle that there was no set timeline for the reopening of indoor dining seating. He did not respond in time for publication to an email asking why Duke decided to reopen some seating now.

Without the option of communal indoor seating on campus, Duke’s COVID-19 rules require students to choose between eating alone in their dorm rooms alone or sitting outside with friends six feet apart. Winter temperatures have made the latter option unpleasant much of the time.

“I miss the days when I could actually hold the pizza I was eating without being afraid that my fingers would fall off,” first-year Allison Taub told The Chronicle earlier this month.

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