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Duke reports 231 coronavirus cases in one week, nearly matching total from fall semester

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

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

With most on-campus students weeks away from being eligible for vaccines, Duke shattered COVID-19 case records last week. 

From March 8 to March 14, the University reported 231 combined positive tests between students, faculty and staff, pushing the total since Jan. 3 to over 700 cases. That number is nearly triple the fall semester’s 241 cases, with last week’s single-week numbers nearly matching the fall’s total.

The new numbers come just over three weeks before April 7, when students living in dorms may become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina.

The skyrocketing case numbers—which include 211 undergraduate cases, up from 46 the week before—are connected to fraternity rush, administrators said last week. The Durham Interfraternity Council, which includes fraternities that disaffiliated from Duke over increased restrictions on recruitment, issued a statement Monday that blamed individual fraternity members, rather than the fraternities themselves, for contributing to increasing cases.

Of the 231 combined cases, 218 were among students with only 13 from faculty and staff. Of the student cases, 101 were found through 18,709 surveillance tests, for a positivity rate of 0.54%. Another 117 were from students who were either symptomatic or contact traced, with a positivity rate of 27.73%. A total of 422 students were symptomatic or contact traced last week, compared to 1,262 during the entire fall semester.

Positive tests among faculty and staff remained low, with only 13 positives out of 2,590 tests for a positivity rate of 0.50%. Four of those cases were found through surveillance testing, with the other nine from people who were symptomatic or contact traced. 

The weekly bump comes amid an eventful week in athletic and campus activities.

On March 11, Duke’s men’s basketball program ended its season midway through the ACC Tournament after a personnel member tested positive. Two days later, the University announced a "stay-in-place" order for all undergraduates through Sunday, March 21. That order moved all classes online for the week, restricted students in on-campus housing to their rooms or apartments with few exceptions and banned off-campus students from campus in most circumstances. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated to clarify that Duke has not specified whether the personnel member who tested positive was a player. 

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