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Weekly coronavirus cases more than double among undergraduates ahead of two-day break

<p>Test tubes for Duke's self-administered COVID-19 surveillance tests.</p>

Test tubes for Duke's self-administered COVID-19 surveillance tests.

Administrators urged students to follow virus safety rules as weekly COVID-19 cases more than doubled among undergraduates.

There were 46 coronavirus cases among undergraduates last week, compared to 22 the week before, Dean of Students John Blackshear; Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs; and Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, wrote in an email to undergraduates on Monday. Of last week’s cases, 28 were on campus, and 19 of those students were male first-year students living on East Campus. 

“The majority of the undergraduate cases are connected to students who attended unmasked off-campus gatherings or have travelled,” the administrators wrote. They noted that contact tracers are seeing an increase in students who are “reluctant or unwilling to disclose important information that is necessary to keep others at Duke and in the community safe.”

The administrators urged students not to attend unmasked gatherings or gatherings of more than 10 people and to comply with symptom monitoring and contact tracing. They also reminded undergraduates that they must fill out a form if they are traveling this week, when students get two days off classes.

Students who travel must participate in surveillance testing upon returning and sequester for 48 hours in their room, with failure to do so being a “flagrant violation of the Duke Compact,” the email read.

“While we all wish it was otherwise, COVID is not over,” the administrators wrote. “Every student’s actions and decisions matter in our effort to stop the pandemic. The risks to you and to others in the Duke and Durham communities remain very serious, and any group or individual’s actions that incur additional risks may severely jeopardize vulnerable individuals in our community.”

Duke’s new COVID-19 cases had remained low in recent weeks. Administrators cautioned in February, when cases were higher, that new restrictions could be necessary if cases did not decrease.

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

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