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.
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.
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Preetha Ramachandran is a Trinity senior and diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously senior editor for Volume 117.
Nadia Bey is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 117.