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COVID-positive students denied access to designated campus isolation spaces due to winter weather

<p>The conditions were slick Sunday as Durham saw snow.</p>

The conditions were slick Sunday as Durham saw snow.

Sunday’s winter weather led to delays in transporting students to COVID-19 isolation.

Sophomore Abby Groth was notified at 9 a.m. Sunday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, and that she would get a call with further instructions. But by 11:40 a.m., she still had not received a call. Instead, she got an email from the Pandemic Support Unit saying that her patience was appreciated as they “continue to monitor current weather conditions.”

The University activated its severe weather policy on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. An update posted on Duke’s emergency website at 12:18 p.m. that day said the Lancaster Commons transit route had been suspended due to conditions. Lancaster Commons is one of Duke’s designated isolation spaces, the other being The Lodge.

The email obtained by The Chronicle told Groth to continue isolating in her room and to wear a KN95 mask around others at all times while awaiting next steps. She was permitted to leave her room for “essential activities related to food, health, or safety, such as picking up grab-and-go food.” 

“Basically, I have no idea if I’m actually getting moved or not,” Groth wrote in a message to The Chronicle.

Junior Cameron DeChurch tested positive Saturday night and wanted to move to isolation to avoid exposing others and his roommate, only to be told he couldn’t be moved for a few days.

“I called every Duke number I could find and they all told me that they couldn’t bring me to isolation until Monday when the snow on the roads was gone,” DeChurch wrote in a message. “I wasn’t allowed to bring myself to [one of Duke’s designated isolation spaces],so even if I found a way to get there over the weekend, they wouldn’t allow me to stay there.”

Instead, DeChurch paid for a hotel room to isolate for two nights. The Pandemic Support Unit called him on Monday when the Lancaster Commons transit route to isolation restarted. 

They reportedly asked if it would be possible for him to find his own transportation from the hotel to isolation because the pickup shuttle only went to West Campus. DeChurch saw this as a contradiction to the Pandemic Support Unit’s previous instructions to not find his own transportation to campus isolation spaces. 

Duke’s Pandemic Support Unit did not respond to a request for comment. 

Students reported similar delays in being transported to isolation in fall 2021. In December, the University said that on-campus students that tested positive for COVID-19 would isolate in their housing assignments once campus quarantine locations were at capacity.

Editor’s note: Cameron DeChurch is an associate editor for The Chronicle’s sports department.

If you have additional information about isolation, whether impacted by inclement weather or not, here are ways to contact us.


Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 117.

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