Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

During the last month, we have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases as a result of the Omicron variant that has set new records on campus, in North Carolina and across the country. In order to begin and continue normal operations during the Spring semester, we once again need your help to protect the Duke community.

Isolation Guidelines:

Based on new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Duke is updating its isolation protocols for those who test positive for COVID-19.

  • Vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic (i.e. no symptoms) can end isolation five days after testing positive once cleared by Employee Health or Student Health and must then wear a well-fitting mask for the next five days when around others.
  • Symptomatic and all unvaccinated individuals must continue to isolate for 10 days to protect others who could become infected. Exceptions may be made for essential healthcare staff and other personnel needed to address critical needs, but those individuals will be required to follow additional masking protocols prescribed by Employee Health.

According to the CDC, this change in protocol is supported by data demonstrating that the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.

These changes in the Duke policy will help us manage an expected spike in individuals testing positive due to Omicron and holiday travel. We’ve already seen a significant increase in positive tests among staff and students who have been on campus during the winter break. If these rates continue when the majority of students return to campus next week, we may face staffing shortages in critical operating areas and will likely exceed available dedicated isolation space for residential students, requiring them to isolation within their residence hall rooms instead.

What You Can Do Now

Please continue to practice safety protocols such as masking while indoors, avoiding large unmasked gatherings, and washing your hands frequently. In addition, please take the following steps:

  • If you have not already, please get your booster shot before returning to campus. This is the best protection against the Omicron variant and will be required for all students and employees.
  • Students should get tested 48 hours before returning to campus. If you test positive, please isolate at home until you have met the isolation criteria of your local health authority before returning to campus. (Note: Any student who cannot test before returning should sequester until after completing two rounds of surveillance testing on campus.)
  • After returning to campus, students should take an entry (surveillance) test administered by Duke as directed and then sequester in their on- or off-campus residence until they receive notification via email that their sequester can end.
  • Unvaccinated faculty and staff must resume surveillance testing and daily symptom monitoring the week of January 3.
  • If you develop any symptoms, do not come to campus.  Call your health care provider to arrange for a test.

As we close out what has been an extraordinary year, we want to acknowledge the many efforts and sacrifices of our community to weather this historic and ongoing pandemic. We remain Duke United.

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration

Mary Pat McMahon,
Vice Provost and Vice President, Student Affairs

Carol Epling, MD, MSPH
Director, Employee Occupational Health & Wellness

John Vaughn, MD,
Director of Student Health

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