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Duke to require masks at large outdoor events, masks "strongly recommended" outdoors

Campus students decided to use their beautiful spring days to make care packages together for Duke students to use during finals. "While we made these packages to help others feel cared for, I found the act of making the packages in the sun on the quad therapeutic in and of itself. I haven't been able to feel this way for a while, especially with the spring I lost last year," said Hindu Students Association co-president Sarabesh Natarajan.
Campus students decided to use their beautiful spring days to make care packages together for Duke students to use during finals. "While we made these packages to help others feel cared for, I found the act of making the packages in the sun on the quad therapeutic in and of itself. I haven't been able to feel this way for a while, especially with the spring I lost last year," said Hindu Students Association co-president Sarabesh Natarajan.

Masks will now be required at outdoor events with more than 100 people, according to a Thursday morning email to students.

The email, sent to all undergraduate students by the Office of Student Affairs, supplemented an earlier message sent to the community by Provost Sally Kornbluth and Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh. This directive applies to the involvement fair to be hosted on East Campus Thursday afternoon and the Heatwave watch party on Abele Quad on Friday.

Duke also “strongly recommends” that masks are worn outdoors, according to the message from Cavanaugh and Kornbluth.

That email noted that there has been a surge of COVID-19 cases at Duke, locally and nationally. Most positive cases are among fully vaccinated people, with the majority being asymptomatic and the rest having minor cold or flu-like symptoms.

“We cannot eliminate COVID, but we can take some important steps that have been demonstrated to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the community,” the email reads.

Masks are required inside buildings and strongly recommended outdoors even in small groups. Outdoor dining is also encouraged, per the email. More tents will be added across campus to accommodate “larger numbers of students and employees who wish to eat together.” Mobile ordering will also be expanded, the email says.

The University’s masking policies have been in flux throughout the summer and into the fall semester. 

Duke rolled back it’s nearly year-long outdoor mask mandate in early May. In early July, fully vaccinated individuals could go without masks in "most indoor places." 

Masking indoors became again mandatory on July 30, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina attributable to the Delta variant and decreased vaccination rates in the state. This guidance initially excluded residential halls but has since been reversed. 

On Aug. 10, community members were encouraged to eat outdoors and limit indoor seating. 

Durham County has been under a state of emergency since Aug. 9 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Masks are required in any indoor public place, business or establishment regardless of vaccination status. 

Duke reported 113 positive COVID-19 tests—95 among students and 18 among faculty and staff—from Aug. 16 to 22. The positivity rate was 0.6%. There were 111 active cases as of Aug. 23. 

According to the Thursday email, 91% of employees and 95% of students are fully vaccinated.

Cavanaugh did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many students, faculty and staff have tested positive so far this week.

This article was updated at 11:45 a.m. to reflect the update about masking in large outdoor groups.


Preetha Ramachandran | Senior Editor

Preetha Ramachandran is a Trinity junior and senior editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


Nadia Bey | Managing Editor

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

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