The message is being sent to all Duke graduate and professional students.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Dear students,

The semester is quickly drawing to a close and we know that many of you are finalizing plans to leave Duke and Durham for Winter Break. We are writing today to share important updates including sharing your departure plans with us if you’re on campus or in the Durham area, and how to complete a COVID-19 exit test before you leave. Additionally, we want to highlight valuable health and wellness information for Winter Break.

Please read this message carefully and note the required actions, whether you are living on campus or elsewhere in Durham this fall. 

Also, note that all plans for the spring semester are subject to change on short notice based on local and national public health conditions.


We know that many of our students are studying remotely this fall, all around the world. For all students who are living on campus at Duke or off campus in the Durham area, you must complete this short form to notify the university of your departure from Durham. Completing this survey helps us coordinate any necessary health screening prior to your planned travel and removes you from the surveillance testing pool while you are away from Durham.

It is important that you complete the form so we can provide health and testing services to those remaining on campus or in the Durham area and need access to campus. Please note that any intentional falsification of this form may result in a referral to your program leadership.

In addition to this email, you will also receive a link to the form through Duke’s text message notification system. You are welcome to fill out the form as soon as you know your plans, but at the latest, it must be completed by NOVEMBER 13. We understand that plans may change, so if you need to update your response, you can do so by visiting the same link again via this email or the link sent to you via text.

For graduate and professional students living in Durham or the surrounding area, we encourage you to limit (or avoid) travel during the winter break. 

For public health reasons, we need to minimize back-and-forth travel from Duke students to and from other locations around the US and globe. If you must travel during this period, please use the form above to provide departure and return dates. We understand that for many of you Durham is your home. We are working with school leadership to determine who will require campus access over the break, and therefore be required to participate in surveillance testing. We are aware that students in some programs will continue to engage in educational activity after the Thanksgiving break due to the unique academic calendar of their program. Such students should await further communication from their school or program leadership.


We know that some of you may be traveling to states or countries that require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you can travel. A few notes:

  • Pay close attention to your state or country’s requirements—some require proof of a negative result within a certain time period before your departure, or require a specific type of test. 
  • Note that regular surveillance testing will NOT fulfill this requirement. If you think you need a COVID-19 test for travel, please call Student Health as soon as possible to review your needs.

Students who either test positive or are required to quarantine between now and the date they plan to leave Durham will have three options:

  • Students who already reside on campus may remain in Duke-provided facilities until you are approved to leave.
  • A family member may pick you up and drive you home; you should NOT use any form of public transportation during this time.
  • You may drive yourself home; again, you should NOT use public transportation during this time.

If you test positive, we will work with you to develop a strategy that is right for you. 


We hope that you stay healthy and well over the break. A few reminders

  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth; do not share your mask with others.
  • Limit your circle of contacts, and pay attention to who your contacts interact with and who in your circle is particularly at risk to complications from COVID-19 (e.g. those 65 or older, or people with underlying health conditions). 
  • Avoid higher risk settings such as indoor gatherings, places where physical distancing is not possible, activities that involve increased respiratory effort, or places or activities where people may be maskless
  • Practice physical distancing
  • If you haven’t already, get vaccinated for the flu
  • Wash your hands regularly, and if that is not possible, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Rest and spend time doing things that give you life. It’s been a tough semester!

If you are away from Durham for the break and develop symptoms and/or test positive, you should notify your local health department and notify Student Health through the SymMon app. Please note that if you test positive for COVID over break, you should submit that result by sending an email to prior to your return in January. This will assist with your re-entry testing process as well.

If you are staying on campus over the break, we will share more information with you soon about life on campus, including more details on campus office hours, dining, and surveillance testing over the break.


All students, whether returning to Durham or arriving for the first time, must participate in entry testing before gaining access to campus. Entry testing for graduate and professional students will begin on January 9 in Penn Pavilion unless otherwise noted by your school; some students in the Schools of Medicine and Nursing will begin testing on January 4 and can expect to receive more specific communication from their program leadership. Entry testing for undergraduate students will begin January 15 in Penn Pavilion.

Details about scheduling an entry test for January will also be shared with all students in the coming weeks. Similar to the fall semester, all students are required to sequester in their residence until a negative test result is received via Duke MyChart. To decrease the likelihood of a positive test, we strongly encourage you to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to campus and to minimize contact with others during the break.

Again, please remember that all plans for the spring semester are subject to change on short notice based on local and national public health conditions.

Thank you for all that each of you has done this fall to protect the health of your fellow students, of Duke staff and faculty and the Durham community. Let’s keep it up these last few weeks of the semester and finish strong. We are all in this together.

Go Duke,

Jennifer Francis
Executive Vice Provost

John Vaughn, M.D.
Director of Student Health Services