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Students miss Friday COVID-19 surveillance tests following inconsistent information from Duke

<p>Test tubes for Duke's self-administered COVID-19 surveillance tests.</p>

Test tubes for Duke's self-administered COVID-19 surveillance tests.

Sophomore Spencer James planned on getting his COVID-19 surveillance test last Friday at some point in the afternoon, but he was instead greeted by a deactivated DukeCard.

As a part of Duke’s routine surveillance testing to identify active COVID-19 cases, many undergraduate students were scheduled for a test on Friday, Aug. 27. Multiple students believed they had until 4 p.m. to complete their test, but several testing sites closed at 1 p.m. This confusion resulted in fears that students would lose access to housing and dining over the weekend.  

Testing sites had been open until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, leading some to believe that this would remain true on Friday.

“Most [sites] are open until 4 p.m., and the Washington Duke site is open until 6 p.m.,” Duke United Testing said in the first paragraph of an email to students with tests scheduled for Aug. 27.

Later in the same email, Duke United Testing provided contrasting information, stating, “Testing will only be conducted this Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Brodhead Center, Bryan Center and East Union, and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Washington Duke Inn.”

Many students did not know that testing sites closed before 4 p.m. on Fridays until they received notices they had missed their mandatory tests. Instead, as Duke noted further down in the email, all testing sites closed at 1 p.m., causing James and numerous other students to miss their mandatory tests.

Consequences for this mistake varied among students.

The Aug. 27 email threatened to deactivate students’ DukeCards if they did not comply with mandatory testing. After missing their scheduled test, students received emails confirming their cards had been disabled until the next available testing day. Since testing sites are not open on the weekends, this would have left students without access to their dorms or food points until Monday morning.

However, none of the six undergraduate students The Chronicle spoke to said this happened to them. Instead, James said he lost access to his DukeCard for just a few hours. 

Jose Guevara Hernandez, a junior from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill studying at Duke this semester through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, said his card was reactivated within an hour of contacting Duke United Testing about the issue.

Sophomore Josh Wawrzyniak, who forgot to scan his test after taking it, said his resident assistant helped him reactivate his card that afternoon.

Three other students—sophomores Robert Miron, Major Kerr and Mark Liu—said their DukeCards were never deactivated.

None of these students said they were aware of the shortened testing schedule for Friday’s until they received emails saying they had missed their tests.

“Originally the fall semester surveillance testing plan was scheduled to run Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. across various sites,” wrote Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh in an email to The Chronicle on Friday. “Our modeling team suggested adding an additional day with a smaller population that didn’t require the team and labs to be available during the full range of the day.”

The Friday testing schedule will be based on “necessity and size” in future weeks, Schoenfeld wrote.

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