March 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We have been informed that at least 15 additional members of the Duke community who were part of the same overseas travel group that we reported on Friday have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19.  Four other members of this group were diagnosed with COVID-19 in another country and are remaining there until they have recovered.

All members of this group were directed by Durham County Department of Public Health and Duke to undergo a self-quarantine at their homes off-campus upon returning to Durham and that will continue until they receive medical clearance.  We understand that the individuals who tested positive are in good health.  Durham County Public Health and Duke Health will work to test all other individuals who traveled with this group.

The university is providing support for these individuals to the extent possible.  In addition, Durham Public Health officials are working to complete a contact investigation to determine if these individuals may have had close contact with others within Durham County while symptomatic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with a COVID-19 infection for a minimum period of 10 minutes or longer.

While our thoughts are with the individuals who have tested positive, it is also essential we protect individuals’ privacy to the greatest extent possible.  Neither Duke nor public health authorities will identify any individual patient, nor will we provide any information that could compromise their confidentiality, like their address.  While this is both law and policy, it is also a matter of personal safety: individuals can become targeted, threatened or harassed should this information be shared.

As this situation continues to become more acute, the university is taking all necessary steps to  address our highest priorities: ensuring the health and safety of the Duke and Durham communities by limiting opportunities for the spread of the virus; protecting our health care providers, hospitals and clinics; and advancing our missions of education and discovery through teaching and research.  Please visit for the latest updates on Duke programs, services and policies.

Finally, it goes without saying that this is a global crisis.  As we can expect to see growing numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases within our Duke community, it is vital that we all use common sense and good judgment. Any one of us who has been in contact with others could have been exposed to the coronavirus. We should all take every precaution to minimize exposure to the most vulnerable among us, and to protect everyone.

Kyle J. Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration and Emergency Coordinator