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As school years kick off, here's how COVID-19 protocols, dashboards differ across Triangle universities

<p>The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.</p>

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Duke updated its COVID-19 protocols last Monday, but how does the situation compare to other local universities?

Here’s what case numbers, vaccination rates and other safety regulations look like as the school year kicks off for Duke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University.

Testing, cases and positivity rates

While Duke has seen the most positive tests of the four schools, it is the only university of the four to require regular surveillance testing for vaccinated students.

Duke identified 610 positive cases among students and employees between Aug. 2 and 29. UNC reported 540 cumulative positive cases since August 2021 on Sept. 2. NCSU reported 435 cases from Aug. 1 to Sept. 5., and North Carolina Central University reported 121 total cases from Aug. 16 to Sept. 3. 

The positivity rate at Duke across all students and employees since Aug. 2 has been 1.1%. UNC’s rate is 2.16% and NC State’s is 0.94%. NCCU does not release information about how many tests were administered. 

At Duke, vaccinated students must participate in routine surveillance testing at least once a week, while unvaccinated students must undergo testing at least two times a week. 

NCCU requires vaccinated individuals to test twice over the course of a semester, with unvaccinated individuals being subject to testing dependent on campus positivity rates.

UNC and NC State require unvaccinated individuals to be COVID-19 tested routinely, with UNC requiring testing twice a week and NC State once a week. Vaccinated students do not have to undergo regular surveillance testing. 

Masking protocols

Duke’s current COVID-19 protocol requires individuals to wear masks indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.

NCCU limits mask requirements to institutional buildings, with vaccinated individuals being able to unmask in non-educational settings, such as cafeterias and gymnasiums. 

Masks are required in all indoor buildings at UNC and NC State. Outdoor masking is mandated for unvaccinated individuals at NC State but only encouraged for vaccinated individuals. UNC does not require face masks outdoors but also encourages wearing them in group settings.

At all Triangle schools, students are exempt from wearing masks in their private residences. 

Vaccination requirements

Despite having the highest reported COVID-19 rates, Duke is the only institution of the four to require vaccinations, though individuals may apply for medical and religious exemptions. As of Aug. 30, 98% of students and 92% of employees are fully vaccinated. Duke employees must be vaccinated by Oct. 1 as a condition of employment.

UNC’s vaccination rate is 90% for students and 87% for employees. As of Sept. 1, 66% percent of the NC State community has verified full vaccination. NCCU has not officially released student or staff vaccination rates. 

Public information and communication

Though both Duke and NCCU share information about COVID-19 positivity rates on their respective dashboards, NCCU updates cases daily with the cumulative number of known cases, while Duke only releases new numbers weekly alongside cumulative rates. Duke also includes the number of tests administered, data NCCU does not include. 

The dashboards of UNC and NC State include information about isolation and quarantine rates, updating the number of students on both statuses daily. UNC also includes the residence halls where clusters have been identified, as well as the amount of asymptomatic and symptomatic testing. 

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