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Duke to require masks in Duke-owned and leased buildings starting Friday

University “may need to make additional changes” pending COVID-19 conditions

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Editor's note: This story was updated three times Wednesday to include new information about COVID-19 vaccination rates on campus and a statement from Duke Athletics.

Duke has modified its mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Tuesday.

Starting Friday, all individuals will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings regardless of vaccination status, according to a Wednesday morning email sent to students, faculty and staff from Provost Sally Kornbluth and Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh. 

Masks will not be required in on-campus residence halls “where there is a significantly lower risk of exposure for high-risk individuals." 

The policy will last until further notice. 

The email noted that the new policy is due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina “related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated.”

As of now, administrators are “not reinstituting controls on room capacity, distancing and events, though [they] are closely monitoring local and national conditions and may need to make additional changes needed to protect health and safety,” wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email to The Chronicle.  

“We are making plans and preparations to welcome all students back for the fall semester, and we are eager to see a more active and dynamic campus this year,” Kornbluth and Cavanaugh wrote. “But the pandemic is still with us, and we must take appropriate steps to promote the safety and well-being of our community in the midst of this resurgence.”

The CDC announced Tuesday that fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of "substantial or high transmission" based on new evidence regarding the delta variant. Fully vaccinated individuals may also consider wearing masks if they are immunocompromised or interact with immunocompromised individuals or those that are not fully vaccinated. Universal indoor masking is recommended at schools.

The University first rolled back its outdoor mask mandate May 3. Masks were still required inside University-owned or leased buildings and on Duke transit unless one was alone, eating or drinking. As of July 1, fully vaccinated individuals could go without masks in "most indoor places."

North Carolina's COVID-19 positivity rate was 10.4% on Sunday, the first time since Feb. 1 the positivity rate has gone over 10%. Additionally, over 1,000 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in North Carolina for the first time since May 8. Nearly a quarter of adults that are hospitalized statewide due to COVID-19 are in the ICU. 

As of July 22, Durham County was experiencing "moderate" spread according to the state’s county alert system. The CDC also categorized Durham as "moderate" for the week of July 19 to July 25.

Cavanaugh told The Chronicle Wednesday morning that 82.5% of faculty and staff and approximately 79% of students have been vaccinated or submitted their information. All undergraduate and graduate students must be vaccinated by the first day of class, and all faculty and staff are expected to be vaccinated by Sept. 1.

So far, less than 200 members of the Duke community have applied for religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Cavanaugh told The Chronicle Wednesday afternoon. Those who are unvaccinated will be required to participate in weekly testing and "other public health actions," per Cavanaugh.

A spokesperson for Duke Athletics told The Chronicle that spectators and others in attendance at events will be "required to adhere to any COVID guidelines that are in place at that time."

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

Jake Piazza contributed reporting.


Nadia Bey | Managing Editor

Nadia Bey is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


Leah Boyd | Editor-in-Chief

Leah Boyd is a Pratt junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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