The message below is being sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dear students,

As announced to the Duke community this afternoon and following consultation with infectious disease experts, the university has updated its guidance on COVID-19. We are writing as a follow-up to that message with more information specifically for undergraduate students.

From that message, we know that our numbers of COVID-positive tests are going up. We also know that our near-fully vaccinated student (98%) and employee (92%) populations are protected from serious illness, and that we continue to see no evidence of transmission in our classrooms and other campus locations where all individuals are masked. However, not everyone can be protected through vaccination–this includes some of your peers and the children of faculty and staff who are under 12. This surge is also placing significant stress on the people, systems and facilities that are dedicated to protecting our health, safety and the ability of Duke to fulfill its educational mission, particularly our isolation space for on-campus students who test positive. 

As stated in today’s university message, the following new guidelines will be in effect starting Monday, August 30, and subject to review in two weeks’ time:

  • Masks will now be required on the Duke campus in all indoor and outdoor locations, unless you are exercising [outdoors] alone, actively eating or drinking, or otherwise not around others. After vaccinations, masks are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID. We have seen this both on campus and in our health system.
  • Indoor group seating at Duke Dining facilities will be temporarily suspended. All Duke Dining facilities will transition to grab and go, and more than 25 tents have been erected across the campus to provide outdoor seating for meals and other gatherings.

Additionally, the following new limitations will be placed on student activities to reduce the possibility of COVID transmission:

  • All student organization programs with 50 or more attendees need to be registered and approved through DukeGroupsThis continues a practice established last academic year. To reduce the risk of transmission, events should be held outside when possible. This policy applies to events already scheduled and posted in DukeGroups. If an event is not approved before the event is to take place, event hosts should plan to hold events virtually.
  • Undergraduate students hosting social gatherings on- or off-campus must ensure attendees are fully masked and limit attendance to no more than 50 people until further notice. Hosting larger and/or unmasked events while this policy is in place will be considered a violation of the Undergraduate Student COVID-19 Policy Plan and will result in disciplinary action for hosts and possibly for attendees.
  • We are postponing The Devil’s Gala scheduled for September 3. A smaller event will be held at the same time. More information will be available soon. 
  • We urge all students to use caution in attending events that carry greater risk of infection and transmission to others. Delta is at least 2 times more transmissible than previous COVID variants, so it takes very little time for someone to become infected while unmasked. 

Please know that the university remains committed to striking a balance between steps that reduce the spread of Delta with efforts to further your educational opportunities and ability to connect with one another, as well as your faculty, mentors, and campus resources. If you’re a returning student, please be assured that we’ve heard your feedback about ways to get this balance right, and we remain open to all students’ input and perspective as we find our way forward together.

We recognize fully that all students, like us, are eager to resume a more open and unencumbered approach to life on campus.  To get there, we have to listen to our experts in infectious disease, public health, and medicine and continue to heed their advice as part of that effort. Thank you for doing so, too.