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Duke implements 'stay in place' order with new temporary restrictions on campus life

Duke has implemented a "stay-in-place" order for undergraduates, effective at midnight Saturday night and lasting until 9 a.m. Sunday, March 21.

Classes will all be online during the order with very limited exceptions, 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 a Saturday evening message to undergraduates.

Students living in Duke-provided housing—including Blue Light, Avana and the Washington Duke Inn—must remain in rooms or apartments except for essential activities like picking up food and essential supplies, participating in surveillance testing, seeking medical care and spending time outdoors in a safe way, the administrators wrote. Students living off campus in Durham may only come to campus to participate in surveillance testing, seek medical care at Student Health or pick up grab-and-go orders at the Crown Commons express pickup.

Students may gather outside on campus in groups of three people while masking and social distancing, but dining will be pick-up only and students may not eat together indoors or outdoors. There will be a 9 p.m. curfew for on-campus undergraduates, by which time students must be in their residences.

Common spaces such as the Bryan Center and Brodhead Center will be only open to on-campus students for essential activities—including food or package pickup—during limited hours.  

The move is designed to "contain the rapidly escalating number of COVID cases among Duke undergraduates, which is principally driven by students attending recruitment parties for selective living groups," the administrators wrote.

More than 180 students over the past week have been in isolation for a positive test, and 200 students are in quarantine due to contact tracing.

"Our ability to complete the semester, commencement for our seniors, and the health and safety of our community, including your fellow undergraduate students, is hanging in the balance," the administrators wrote.

Administration will monitor the situation and provide an update on Thursday, March 18.

Graduate students are not included in the directive because there has not been a significant increase in COVID-19 transmission among them, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Vice President of Administration Kyle Cavanaugh wrote in an email to faculty on Saturday evening. 

Details about how the order will affect athletics will be announced later, wrote Art Chase, senior associate director of athletics for external affairs, in a message to The Chronicle. 

Kitchens, common spaces and study rooms in at least some dorms will be closed at 6 p.m. Saturday “due to the high volume of covid positive cases,” wrote Kas Bryant, residence coordinator for Crowell and Wannamaker quads, in an email to residents of those quads.

Residence coordinators warned resident assistants before the announcement that Duke would announce new temporary restrictions on campus life, according to screenshots reviewed by The Chronicle of group messages from RCs to RAs.

Residence life administration told RAs about their plans for the restrictions at a Saturday evening meeting, wrote an RA present at the meeting, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, in a message to The Chronicle. The announcement from the administration confirmed the details presented at the meeting.

Leaked news of the restrictions spread across campus Saturday evening in advance of the announcement. 

Shortly before 7 p.m., the Bryan Center Plaza was filled with groups of people walking and grabbing final meals together. Inside the Bryan Center, the line to the Duke Lobby Shop was out the door. Some students were there to grab toilet paper, while others walked out with bags filled with snacks.




The move comes three days after Duke announced that off-campus fraternity rush events had contributed to a huge spike in COVID-19 cases. Many of the new cases were connected to students rushing organizations associated with the Durham Interfraternity Council, the newly formed governing body for fraternities that have disaffiliated from Duke, administrators wrote to students on Wednesday.

Durham IFC President Will Santee, a junior, had earlier told The Chronicle that no Durham IFC groups should hold in-person rush. 

Asked for comment on Saturday, Santee wrote in an email that Durham IFC would put out an official statement on Monday. 

Duke announced Thursday that its basketball season was over after a positive test among team personnel, though ESPN reported Saturday that the team could still play in the NCAA tournament if selected for an at-large bid or as a COVID-19 replacement team.

Duke’s football team paused activities on Tuesday due to a COVID-19 cluster within the program.

Anna Zolotor contributed reporting.

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

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