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How Duke's fall 2021 COVID-19 protocols compare to those of peer institutions

Fall on Campus
Fall on Campus

Duke announced a series of updates to their COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester last Tuesday. Thanks to high vaccination rates, the University and many of its peer institutions are planning to return to mostly normal operations in the fall.

In a COVID-19 update for fall 2021, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has set a goal of a full return to in-person instruction and plans for a semester with a “more typical residential academic experience.”

With the anticipation of more students being on campus this fall, Carolina Housing expects that residence halls will be operating at near-normal capacity. However, UNC will reserve two housing facilities for quarantine and isolation and will most likely continue their Carolina Together Testing Program. Masks may be required on campus, with exact details yet to be determined. 

North Carolina State University is also planning for a return to a normal semester. Recent updates include the lifting of gathering limits, both indoors and outdoors, more relaxed mask policies and changes to summer surveillance testing. Most individuals who have been fully vaccinated will be exempt from routine surveillance testing.

At NCSU, masks are no longer required outdoors but are compulsory in indoor instructional spaces and “for participants in university-sponsored summer camps on campus when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.” NCSU plans to communicate more specific updates as the semester approaches. 

North Carolina Central University is requiring masks inside NCCU buildings and facilities, as well as state owned vehicles. All individuals will be required to perform a daily temperature check and COVID-19 screening survey.

Surveillance testing will be required for all NCCU students; vaccinated students will be tested twice a week, but unvaccinated students will be "subject to increased surveillance testing based on campus positivity rate but not less than one time per week." Vaccines are required for all students, with the exception of medical and religious exemptions.

Harvard University has committed to 100% in-person learning, noting that “all undergraduate and graduate course instruction this fall, including sections, will be carried out in the classroom.” They will facilitate in-person co-curricular activities, library services and dining. 

Similar to Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania will have a fully in-person learning experience. For UPenn, masks are no longer required for those who are fully vaccinated, except in certain situations such as while riding public transportation and while inside campus healthcare facilities. 

At UPenn, fully vaccinated individuals will be exempt from weekly testing protocols, but all students will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival on campus, regardless of vaccination status. However, students will no longer be required to quarantine upon arrival to campus. Additionally, UPenn’s daily symptom tracker, PennOpen Pass, will not be required for building entry, but will continue to be required at campus health facilities.

Wake Forest University will be offering fully in-person courses on their Reynolda campus as long as public health conditions continue to improve. The university “remain[s] hopeful that study abroad can resume this fall, and [is] actively preparing for that eventuality.” The housing selection process has been delayed to allow for “greater certainty in [their] approach to housing.” The next comprehensive update for the fall semester will be released in early July. 

After distributing their academic calendar across three terms this past year, Brown University plans to return to their pre-pandemic two-semester academic calendar with mostly in-person operations in the fall. Class sizes and room occupancies in student residences will return to normal. 

However, Brown plans to maintain some hybrid and fully online academic options in order to allow students with a compelling reason to study remotely to continue making academic progress.

Brown has plans to loosen restrictions on in-person activities; specifics will be “based on achieving a high level of immunity among students and employees.”

Yale University plans for a primarily in-person education this fall, but a letter from the school’s president acknowledged the possibility of a “brief period of remote instruction” that may be necessary at the beginning of the semester and adjustments to classroom density. All undergraduate students will be eligible for on-campus housing, which the school expects will return to normal capacity.

Yale administrators expect that campus facilities including dining halls, performance venues and athletic spaces will be open to students this fall with “enhanced safety measures in place.”

Columbia University plans for primarily in-person courses this fall. Students who are unable to travel to campus due to difficulty obtaining a visa or health considerations will be allowed to take classes online. Campus facilities including cafeterias, the library and computer labs will “reopen in a phased manner.”

The University of Virginia’s current plan is to return to “in-person residential, educational and research experience[s].” Gathering and travel limits will be significantly relaxed. UVA is planning for all libraries, dining facilities and recreational spaces to be open this fall. 

New York University will resume in-person classes with classrooms operating at or near their normal capacities. In addition, study abroad programs at all sites are expected to be in-person this fall. 

NYU will continue to require mask-wearing on campus. With the exception of reserving some rooms for isolation and quarantine, student residence halls will operate at normal occupancy. 

Most universities acknowledged in their update messages that current plans may shift at any point in time depending on public health guidance. 


Amy Guan

Amy Guan is a Pratt sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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