Dear Colleagues,

You have all seen the reports about the rapid surge of COVID cases locally and nationally as a result of the Delta variant. Duke has not been untouched by this – indeed, even with 91% of our employees and 95% of our students fully vaccinated, we have still recorded a notable increase in positive tests over the past week. Thus far, the vast majority of these positive tests have been among individuals who are fully vaccinated; the majority of those are asymptomatic, with others reporting minor cold- and flu-like symptoms.  

We know that many of you are concerned about transmission on campus, and we want to take this opportunity to provide some additional information and guidance. We cannot eliminate COVID, but we can take some important steps that have been demonstrated to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the community:

  • Wear a mask indoors. Masks are required inside all Duke buildings, and that includes classrooms. Masks are the single most effective way to limit transmission of COVID after vaccinations. Indeed, over the past year we have seen no demonstrated cases of COVID transmission in a classroom or lab when all individuals are masked.
  • To further minimize your general risk and protect others, wear a mask outdoors. Masks are strongly recommended outdoors when you are in a group, even a small group. It’s OK to go maskless when you are exercising or walking by yourself. But if you are with others, even co-workers and students, please wear a mask
  • Eat outdoors. Indoor group dining has been a major vector for virus transmission. We will be adding more tents across campus to accommodate larger numbers of students and employees who wish to eat together. We are also going to expand mobile ordering options at all our dining locations in the days ahead.

We believe that the on-campus, in-person educational experience is important for the educational and emotional well-being of our students.  Be assured that we are constantly monitoring the environment, particularly with respect to where and when COVID transmission appears to be occurring. Our uniformly high vaccination rates, robust surveillance testing, universal masking and the absence of any documented classroom transmission indicate that we can continue safely with our classroom and residential experience. Please know, though, that we are in close and regular contact with Duke infectious disease and public health experts and will take all necessary actions to protect the health and safety of our university community. 


Sally Kornbluth
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration

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