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Duke updates masking, dining, online learning policies after reporting over 300 undergraduate COVID-19 cases in a week

Last spring marked the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for Duke students. Just like the trees, the campus was barren - students were sent home, with no return in sight.
Last spring marked the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for Duke students. Just like the trees, the campus was barren - students were sent home, with no return in sight.

Duke updated its COVID-19 guidance after over 300 undergraduate students tested positive over the last week, per a Monday afternoon email to students, faculty and staff from members of Duke administration.

Over the last week, 304 undergraduates, 45 graduate students and 15 employees tested positive for COVID-19. All but eight of these individuals were vaccinated and the vast majority continue to be asymptomatic, per the email. None have been hospitalized, while a small number have minor cold- and flu-like symptoms.

The following guidelines will go into effect starting Monday, Aug. 30: 

  • Masks will be required indoors and outdoors unless the individual is eating or drinking, exercising alone or “otherwise not around others.”
  • Indoor group seating at Duke Dining facilities will be temporarily suspended. All dining facilities will transition to grab and go. Duke installed more than 25 tents across campus to provide outdoor seating for those to wish to eat. 
  • Faculty teaching undergraduate courses have the option to teach remotely for the next two weeks. It is not a requirement “but an accommodation to allow for increased flexibility as needed,” per the email. It also states that faculty who are able to continue teaching in person “should continue to do so.”
  • The email states that new limitations will be placed on student activities but does not specify more information. Details will be provided directly to students, and violations of these restrictions will result in disciplinary consequences.

As of Monday, 98% of students and 92% of employees are fully vaccinated. The email stated that Duke continues “to see no evidence of transmission in our classrooms and other campus locations where all individuals are masked.”

The email reiterated from an Aug. 29 update that the COVID-19 vaccine will now be a condition of employment for the University. All members of the faculty and staff must present proof of vaccination by Oct. 1 unless granted a religious or medical exemption. All students are also required to be vaccinated unless they receive an approved medical or religious exemption.

From March 8 to 14, Duke saw 231 combined cases among students, faculty and staff in one week. That was the highest number of cases Duke reported in a week up until last week. Duke reported 241 total cases during the fall 2020 semester.

The email was signed by Provost Sally Kornbluth, Executive Vice President Daniel Ennis, Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh, Mary Pat McMahon, vice president/vice provost for student affairs, and Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.


Anna Zolotor | News Editor

Anna Zolotor is a Trinity junior and news 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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