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Duke’s weekly COVID-19 cases down to 78 after campus stay-in-place order

Sixty-one students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, down sharply after a weeklong campus lockdown. 

After 231 total cases last week—including 211 undergraduates—Duke’s COVID-19 testing numbers from March 15 to 22 improved, with 78 total cases over the week. Along with 61 students, 17 faculty and staff tested positive for COVID-19. 

The decrease allowed Duke to loosen new restrictions on student life that had been put in place after an uptick in cases that administrators connected to in-person fraternity rush events. 

To cut down on potential spread, administrators announced a weeklong “stay-in-place” order for undergraduates that restricted campus access for both on-campus and off-campus students. The order was mostly lifted a week later after positive cases declined—although Duke still cautioned that there is reason for concern.

“We continue to see students testing positive at a higher rate than last semester and earlier this year,  and our data indicate that the virus is becoming more contagious,,” wrote Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs; Gary Bennett, vice provost of undergraduate education; and Dean of Students John Blackshear in a Saturday email to undergraduates.

Despite the new cases, more Duke community members were cleared to return from quarantine or isolation than had to enter it, with 480 students, faculty and staff cleared during the week. However, 78 people remain in isolation, after only 241 people were isolated during the fall semester. 

Among students, the overall positivity rate was 0.30%, about a quarter of the previous week’s rate, which topped 1%. Fewer students were symptomatic or contact-traced, although 149 students were placed in precautionary quarantine with another 61 in isolation after a positive test. 

For faculty and staff, whose new cases climbed from 13 to 17 since last week, the overall positivity rate was 0.70%, slightly higher than the previous week’s 0.50%.

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