Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
As we approach the fall semester and provide community health guidance, we find ourselves in a considerably better position for managing COVID than we have since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Duke community has effectively embraced the challenge of helping mitigate the impact of COVID on our campus the last two years. Now, we essentially have a fully vaccinated campus community, which means the risk for severe illness is considerably lower than it would be in the general population. We have also had compliance with masking requirements and no documented cases of transmission within our classrooms.
Among our campus community, there have been few cases of hospitalizations in the last year, and no student hospitalizations to our knowledge in 2022 year-to-date. The latest variants of virus currently circulating within the community are also less likely to cause severe illness than earlier strains of COVID, especially among those fully vaccinated.
Given these factors, we are able to more readily manage COVID cases on campus as we enter the fall semester. We also know there will be circumstances where special arrangements will need to be considered for individuals with higher risk factors for severe illness.
Below are the guidelines for the fall semester. As has been the case throughout the course of this pandemic, we will need to continue to be flexible and make adjustments as circumstances change.
- Students are required to complete a World Health Organization-approved COVID vaccine series prior to participation in on-campus activities. Duke also recommends students receive a booster dose when eligible per CDC guidelines. Note: Health Science students are required to receive the booster dose when eligible per CDC guidelines.
- All new employees are required to have a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot or a Duke-approved medical or religious exemption.
- Duke University’s approach to masking in classrooms will be tied to the CDC community level category. Currently, Durham County remains at the “high” level of community risk, so masking will continue to be required in classrooms. If and when the community risk has been reduced to medium or low for two consecutive weeks, masking will no longer be required in classrooms. Masking will continue to be encouraged in classrooms for anyone who is concerned or is at high-risk for severe disease.
- Masks will continue to be required on Duke buses and vans and in all clinical settings, regardless of the CDC community level.
- Individuals who are unvaccinated are still required to wear a mask in all indoor settings.
- Anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should wear a mask, not report to work or attend classes, and get tested as soon as possible. Anyone experiencing respiratory symptoms, even after a negative COVID test, should remember there are many respiratory viruses circulating in our community. Please be considerate to others and wear a mask whenever you have any cold-like symptoms.
- Masks may still be required in other locations based on specific circumstances, so student, employees and visitors should carry a mask and be prepared to wear it, if needed. Masking is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others, especially in indoor settings. Please continue to respect an individual’s decision to wear a mask even if it is not required.
- Duke will require all students to get a negative PCR test before arriving on campus, preferably within 72 hours of arrival. Tests are not required to be submitted to Duke, but participation is considered as part of the Duke Community Standard.
- Anyone who tests positive should contact Student Health and delay their arrival until cleared by Student Health.
- Duke will continue to offer limited surveillance testing at four locations during the fall semester. Testing is optional for all students, faculty and staff. For more information about surveillance testing, visit the Coronavirus Response website.
- Students, faculty and staff who test positive will be required to wear a well-fitted mask and isolate for a minimum of five days before returning to work or class and will need to continue to wear a mask for another five days. Health sciences students will be required to observe the longer isolation requirement for those working in the healthcare environment.
- Residential students who test positive will be allowed to isolate in place within their residential hall room or apartment while wearing a well-fitted mask until released by Student Health. Residential students can arrange for food delivery through Merchants on Point. Roommates who have been exposed will need to test and also wear a mask to reduce further exposure or infection. Duke has secured space to help relocate exposed medically high-risk roommates, if needed.
Our community has been exceptionally resilient in navigating the worst of the pandemic the last two years. And while we must be prepared to renew our efforts again if circumstances change, we look forward to moving back into more normal routines this academic year. Thank you.
Carol Epling, MD, MSPH
Assistant Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health,
Executive Director, Employee Occupational Health and Wellness
John Vaughn, MD
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs,
Director of Student Health Services
Gail Shulby, RN, MA,CPP
Chief of Staff to the Vice Dean for Strategic Development,
Duke University School of Medicine
Cameron R. Wolfe, MBBS (Hons), MPH, FIDSA
Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Duke Health
Co-Leaders of the COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Work Group