The message below was sent to all Duke undergraduate students. Additionally, this message was forwarded to all faculty and staff from Provost Kornbluth and Vice President Cavanaugh.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Dear students,

We are writing with some urgent information and to outline steps you must take to protect your health and safety and of those around you. Last week we had a noticeable one-week increase in positive COVID tests, with 46 total undergraduate cases (28 on campus). By comparison, the prior week we had 22 total undergraduate cases (8 on campus). This increase poses a significant risk to our effort to stop COVID’s spread and to maintain some semblance of normal university life. We need every student’s help in order to curb transmission.

Contact tracers do not share identifying information about individual students’ identities or actions, but they do report the following aggregate trends:

  • The majority of the undergraduate cases are connected to students who attended unmasked off-campus gatherings or have travelled.
  • 19 of the 28 on-campus positives are first-year male students who reside on East Campus.
  • Contact tracers are also noting an increase in students who are reluctant or unwilling to disclose important information that is necessary to keep others at Duke and in the community safe.  

Our surveillance and Student Health teams are also reporting a trend in which students—later determined to be COVID positive—are experiencing symptoms but not reporting these on the SymMon app.

This delay in reporting possible infection increases the risk of transmitting the virus to others in our community.

We need all undergraduates to take the following steps this week:

  • Report your symptoms accurately and fully every day, regardless of whether you are on campus this week or not.
  • Do not attend any unmasked gatherings or any gatherings of more than 10 people, on or off-campus. Remember that repeated flagrant violations of the Duke Compact and COVID safety expectations—such as organizing events or providing incorrect information to contact tracers—can lead to increased severity of sanctions for individual students.
  • If you are screened by contact tracers, you must fully report your potential exposures and patterns. To reiterate: contact tracing is confidential, but it’s also possible to triangulate when a student or group of students are withholding information and putting others at risk. Failure to comply fully with contact tracing is a safety risk to others and a violation of the Duke Compact.
  • If you are travelling this week but have not registered your travel using the travel form, we still need you to do so by Wednesday at noon in order to help us track and manage spread. 
  • If you are away from Duke and begin experiencing possible COVID symptoms or are exposed to COVID, seek guidance from a local medical provider. If you test positive for COVID, notify Student Health. Do not return to Durham or travel otherwise until you have completed all isolation/quarantine directives.
  • If you are traveling this week, you will be required to participate in surveillance testing immediately upon return and you will be required to sequester in your room during the 48 hours in which you would expect to hear about any positive test results. Failure to do so will be considered a flagrant violation of the Duke Compact.

While we all wish it was otherwise, COVID is not over. Every student’s actions and decisions matter in our effort to stop the pandemic. The risks to you and to others in the Duke and Durham communities remain very serious, and any group or individual’s actions that incur additional risks may severely jeopardize vulnerable individuals in our community.

We hope everyone gets some truly needed downtime during this week’s days off from classes. So many of you are working diligently to protect your health and that of our community; it’s urgent that we keep this up through the rest of the semester. Thank you for all that you are doing.

Go Duke,
John Blackshear
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education