Durham moves into ‘high risk’ COVID-19 classification, Duke classroom mask mandate to return if level remains high

Durham is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and has been moved into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high risk” classification. If Durham remains high risk for two consecutive weeks, Duke will return to mandatory masking in classrooms until the risk level drops, according to an email sent to students, faculty and staff from Duke administrators on Monday afternoon. 

Duke lifted its classroom mask mandate on Sept. 22 after Durham’s community level stayed below the high-risk category for two consecutive weeks. Faculty members currently can still request that students wear masks in their classrooms, the email read. 

Masks continue to be required on Duke buses and vans in the beginning of the spring semester. The policy will be “reassessed later in the semester based on case rates in the community,” according to a December email from administrators. 

Duke is also encouraging anyone with flu-like symptoms to wear a mask indoors and in gatherings. 

“We are seeing an expected surge in COVID and other respiratory illnesses following the holidays and new variants that are proving to be more contagious,” read the Monday email, sent from Carol Epling, executive director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness, and John Vaughn, director of Student Health Services and assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

Durham County has seen 1310 cases between Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 tracker. The county has an 18.96% testing positivity rate as of Jan. 3 data. 

The email also encouraged community members to get their influenza vaccine and bivalent COVID booster. 

Duke will end asymptomatic surveillance testing on campus on March 10, per the December email. Until March 10, limited surveillance testing for asymptomatic community members will be available at the Washington Duke Inn and the Levine Science Research Center. Sites are open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Community members with flu-like symptoms can get PCR tests at Student Health or Employee Health, submit a symptom report through the SymMon app, or call the Employee Health COVID hotline at 919-385-0429, option 1, according to the email. 

For those not experiencing symptoms, you can still get a PCR test at the two locations or pick up one rapid antigen test a week at no charge with a DukeID through Duke Stores in the Bryan Center. 

Milla Surjadi profile
Milla Surjadi | Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Milla Surjadi is a Trinity junior and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 118.


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