Duke has updated its COVID-19 isolation policies in light of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a Wednesday afternoon email to students, faculty and staff from administrators.
Vaccinated asymptomatic individuals may leave quarantine once they are cleared by Employee Health or Student Health five days after testing positive. Upon leaving quarantine, individuals must wear a well-fitting mask for five days when interacting with others.
Symptomatic and unvaccinated individuals must continue to isolate for 10 days, the email said. Exceptions may be made for “essential healthcare staff and other personnel needed to address critical needs” who will be asked to follow additional masking protocol.
The email cited data showing that COVID-19 transmission generally occurs in the first two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.
“These changes in the Duke policy will help us manage an expected spike in individuals testing positive due to Omicron and holiday travel,” administrators wrote, pointing to an increase in positive results among students and staff who have been on campus during winter break.
“If these rates continue when the majority of students return to campus next week, we may face staffing shortages in critical operating areas and will likely exceed available dedicated isolation space for residential students, requiring them to [isolate] within their residence hall rooms instead,” the email reads.
In fall 2021, some students stayed in their housing assignments overnight and experienced delays being transported to isolation due to the high number of students in designated isolation spaces at The Lodge and Lancaster Commons.
Administrators urged students, faculty and staff to obtain their booster shots as soon as possible and to stay away from campus if symptoms develop. Students were also reminded to get tested 48 hours before returning to campus and take an entry test upon arrival. Students who cannot get tested before arrival should sequester until they have completed two surveillance tests.
Unvaccinated faculty and staff must resume surveillance testing Jan. 3.
“As we close out what has been an extraordinary year, we want to acknowledge the many efforts and sacrifices of our community to weather this historic and ongoing pandemic. We remain Duke United,” administrators wrote.
The email was signed by Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh; Mary Pat McMahon, vice president and vice provost for student affairs; Carol Epling, director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness and Director of Student Health John Vaughn.
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This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Nadia Bey is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.