December 31, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

We have all watched with great concern the extraordinarily rapid spread of the Omicron variant in our communities and around the world. On Thursday, the state of North Carolina reported the highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, representing a 60% increase over the previous one-day record. We have also observed an incredibly high number of positive cases across our workforce this week, and increasing numbers among students who are already here in Durham.

Duke’s infectious disease and public health experts have advised us to anticipate that a large number of students will test positive during campus entry testing next week, requiring them to isolate in accordance with the new CDC guidelines. We also anticipate that positive test results, isolation periods and caregiving responsibilities affecting our faculty and staff will have an impact on campus operations and services as the semester begins. 

This is a disappointing reality that requires us to once again revise our plans for the beginning of Spring semester in order to protect the health of our campus and community and to ensure the continuity of campus operations. These changes include:

All undergraduate, graduate, and professional school classes will now be remote until Tuesday, January 18 instead of January 10 as earlier announced. During this time, no hybrid or in-person classes will be permitted.

Residence halls will open as planned on January 2. However, on-campus residential students are strongly encouraged to delay their return to campus to a time between January 3 and January 18, if possible. This will give us the ability to effectively and safely manage what is likely to be a surge of students and other members of the Duke community testing positive.

All students (undergraduate, graduate and professional) must still comply with re-entry and surveillance testing requirementsas previously outlined, whenever they return to campus. 

Students who reside on campus and who test positive will isolate in their residence hall rooms. The university’s dedicated isolation space will be reserved for on-campus students with pre-existing medical conditions whose assignment to isolation space is approved by Student Health.

Priority for early (January 3-5) entry testing will be given to graduate and professional students to facilitate their return to clinical- and lab-based studies and research.  

All on-campus dining will be grab-and-go until January 18; no indoor dining will be permitted during this time. 

All Duke facilities will remain open.  Events and activities may continue as originally scheduled at the discretion of the sponsoring department or unit.

These plans are subject to change should further adjustments be warranted in response to campus, local and national conditions. As a reminder, all Duke students and employees must get the COVID booster shot and observe Duke and Durham policies for wearing masks in indoor public spaces.

This is an uncertain time for all of us. We have to make decisions with the best information we have, and that sometime means quick and potentially disruptive changes. Through it all we are most appreciative of your commitment to safeguarding the health of our students and colleagues, their families, and the larger Durham community, as we navigate yet another unwelcome development in this global pandemic.

For the past two years, the Duke community has demonstrated extraordinary resilience, determination, and a collaborative spirit in the face of many unexpected challenges. We are confident that working together, as a Duke United, we will overcome this latest challenge and have a successful Spring semester. 


Sally Kornbluth

Jennifer Francis
Executive Vice Provost

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice President/Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

This message is being sent to all Duke University students, faculty and staff.