Category: Community Messages Page 1 of 19

COVID Safety Protocols for the Fall Semester

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.

Vaccination Requirements:

  • 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.

Masking:

  • 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.

Testing:

  • 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.

Isolation Management:

  • 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

Indoor Mask Requirement Lifted in Most Duke University Facilities

March 4, 2022

Students, Faculty and Staff,

The City and County of Durham will end the indoor masking mandate on Monday, March 7, as will Orange County. Wake County ended its indoor masking mandate on February 25. As a result, and after reviewing CDC guidance and consulting with our infectious disease experts, Duke University will also revise its indoor masking requirements.

As of Monday, March 7, fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear masks inside most campus and leased facilities. However, masks will continue to be required for all individuals in the following locations on the Duke University campus unless otherwise indicated:

  • In-person classes
  • Duke buses and vans
  • Clinical and patient care areas*

*Note: Easing of mask requirements does not apply to Duke University Health System hospitals, clinics, procedural centers and PDC clinics. Further communication regarding changes in mask requirements will come directly from DUHS and PDC leadership and will be in accordance with CDC health care recommendations.

Masks may still be required in other locations (such as the Lemur Center) based on specific circumstances, so we encourage students, employees and visitors to carry a mask and be prepared to wear it if needed. 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.
Over the next several weeks, we will continue to evaluate campus and local conditions to determine if further changes need to be made in our masking policies.

This transition recognizes that COVID-19 will be with us in some form, but the spread and severity can now be managed through vaccinations and medical treatment. As a result of our high vaccination rates, frequent testing and care and concern for each other, we have not seen any cases of serious illness among students, and very few among employees since the emergence of the Omicron variant.

After two years of navigating the pandemic, we recognize this change may feel uncomfortable for some, and we ask you to be respectful of those who prefer to continue wearing masks, particularly for those who have underlying high-risk medical conditions or live with those who do. It took time for us to adjust to life in a pandemic, and it will take time as we adjust to living with COVID as the pandemic eases. But this is another positive step toward that future.

We are deeply grateful for your engagement and compliance with masking and other safety measures to help protect each other throughout the pandemic. We’re sure this change is welcome news for many and expect we’ll see a lot more smiles around campus in the days ahead.

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration

Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

This message was sent to all University students, faculty and staff.

Campus COVID-19 Testing Before and After Spring Break

Feb. 23, 2022

Students, Faculty and Staff,

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we have relied on Duke’s faculty experts in infectious disease and public health to help with the design and implementation of our protocols and procedures. Based upon their recommendations and the recent positive trends in our testing results, Duke will make the following changes to our COVID-19 testing protocols in the coming weeks.

Spring Break Travel/Exit Testing:

Students and others who need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel can get a PCR test next week at the Bryan Center. Tests will be available from Monday, Feb. 28 through Friday, March 4 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Please inform the staff at the test site that you need an “exit test” rather than a surveillance test. A link to the test results will be sent by email or text within 24 hours.

Surveillance Testing:

Week of March 7: Limited surveillance testing will be available during the week of March 7 for those who remain on campus or are required to test weekly. Visit the Duke United website for locations and hours of operation.

Week of March 14: Following Spring Break, Duke will resume a normal surveillance testing schedule for one week for all eligible students, as well as faculty and staff. Visit the Duke United website for locations and hours of operation.

Week of March 21: Required surveillance testing for asymptomatic vaccinated students will end. Surveillance testing will continue at a limited number of sites across campus for unvaccinated students, staff and faculty who are required to test each week, as well as those who wish to do so voluntarily.

Duke launched an innovative approach for surveillance testing in August 2020 as a way to quickly identify and limit COVID-19 transmission on campus. Since then, more than 1.2 million COVID-19 tests have been administered and processed by the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. This extraordinary effort allowed Duke to quickly return to a residential experience and in-person instruction, and protected the health and safety of our community.

While the program has served us well, it is now time to adapt to the changing landscape, just as we did with prior modifications to isolation and contract tracing. This change is being made after consultation with Duke’s infectious disease experts and is based on several factors, including our high vaccination rate and the decline in positive cases in recent weeks. 

Symptomatic Testing:

Testing will remain available through either Student Health or Employee Occupational Health & Wellness for those experiencing COVID symptoms. For more information, visit the Duke United website.

We are deeply grateful for the efforts of so many during the last two years to help us manage the constant and evolving challenges of this pandemic. We have learned much and leaned on each other often. The resilience, ingenuity, and commitment each member of this community has displayed reminds us of what makes Duke so special. We are not out of the pandemic yet, but we are one step closer to reclaiming the promise of what a post-pandemic life can be.

Until then, please continue to use appropriate caution when gathering with others, and remember that face masks are still required indoors in Durham and within all Duke owned and leased facilities. Thank you.

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration

This message was distributed to all Duke University students, faculty and staff.

Health and Safety Protocols Announced for Home Basketball Events

Duke University Athletics has announced health and safety protocols for men’s and women’s basketball events at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season. The policy has been developed in consultation with medical experts at Duke as well as local and state officials.

Important COVID updates for undergrads, Aug. 30

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. 

New Guidance on COVID-19 for the Duke Community

August 30, 2021

Dear Students and Colleagues,

We are writing today with new information and guidance on COVID-19 and the Duke University community.

Duke’s comprehensive surveillance testing program has given us detailed insight into the pervasiveness of the Delta variant in the university community regardless of vaccination status. In the last week alone, 304 undergraduates, 45 graduate students and 15 employees tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating. All but eight of these individuals were vaccinated, and the vast majority of them were, and continue to be, asymptomatic. A small number have minor, cold- and flu-like symptoms, and none have been hospitalized.

The good news is that we are able to identify these infections early and quickly, 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.

Nonetheless, this surge is 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. We cannot stop COVID-19, but what we can do is adapt to our local and national realities and seek to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

As a result, the following new guidelines will be in effect starting Monday, August 30:

  • Masks will now be required on the Duke campus in all indoor and outdoor locations, unless you are exercising [outdoors] alone, 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 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.
  • Given the absences in some undergraduate classes due to increased number of students in isolation, faculty teaching undergraduate courses have the option to teach remotely for the next two weeks if they would prefer. This is not a requirement but an accommodation to allow for increased flexibility as needed; those who are able to continue teaching in person should certainly do so.
  • New limitations will be placed on student activities to reduce the possibility of COVID transmissions. Individuals and groups that violate these limitations will face disciplinary consequences. Further information will be provided directly to students.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination will now be required for ALL Duke faculty and staff as a condition of employment. Details will be provided directly to those employees who have not yet submitted proof of vaccination or an approved medical or religious exemption, as well as their deans or vice presidents. As of today, 92% of our 22,136 faculty and staff are fully vaccinated.

As a reminder, every faculty and staff member can participate in the Duke surveillance testing program at any time. It is free, convenient, and can offer peace of mind to those who are concerned about exposure. For more information see the Duke United website.

We want to be clear: the problem is not our people, the problem is COVID-19. Our Duke community has been extraordinarily united and resilient in fighting, and adapting to, this pandemic over the last 19 months. Your efforts have made it possible to fulfill our educational commitment to our students, to advance knowledge and discovery through our research, and to serve our region and society.

And yet, we must continue to do more. This is a time to be prudent, to take care of ourselves and each other so we can continue our important mission, which is now more important than ever.

Go Duke,

Sally Kornbluth,
Provost

Daniel Ennis,
Executive Vice President

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 has been sent to all Duke University students, faculty and staff.

Masks now required at outdoor events, and other COVID-related updates

Dear students,

Please pay careful attention to this email message, which was sent to faculty and staff from the Provost and VP Cavanaugh with COVID guidance. As you know, the COVID situation is changing quickly. We need to limit COVID transmission as much as possible, even among vaccinated people, in order to prevent spread to young children and to people in our community who can’t be vaccinated.

  • Masks will now be required at larger (100+ people) outdoor on-campus events (yes, this includes today’s Involvement Fair and Heatwave this Friday). This is to keep you and others safe, and we need your full cooperation so that everyone can enjoy these fun events as safely as possible. 
    • Don’t forget that masks have been required indoors at Duke since July 30—this includes in all areas of residence halls except your assigned room. Masks are also required on all buses and at bus stops.
  • Eat outdoors as much as possible, and find other ways to dine more safely. Here are some ideas:
    • Use mobile ordering to order ahead and pick up your food to go. Most Duke Dining vendors offer mobile ordering, and more will be going live soon as soon as staffing allows. 
    • Merchants-On-Points (MOPS) was just extended to deliver 24/7, instead of just late-night. Check out the current vendors on the Duke Dining website
    • Duke Dining is working with Durham food truck vendors to bring food trucks to West Campus during lunch soon, in addition to dinner. Follow Duke Dining on Instagram to find out when trucks are coming to campus!
  • As a reminder, you can always go to the Duke United website for real-time information and updates related to the university’s COVID-19 response and guidelines. 

Thanks, and go Duke! 

Student Affairs

Things to Keep in Mind as Duke Reopens this Fall

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Welcome (back) Duke students! We truly missed you this summer—campus was not the same without you, and we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2025 and transfer  students this week. We are so very excited to see you on campus as Duke reopens amid a much more typical year’s atmosphere. We at Duke have spent the summer doing everything we can to restore and resume the energy, connections, and interactions we’ve missed since March 2020. 

However, as you know, the Delta variant of COVID is complicating this plan. Emerging data from Duke and national experts show that the Delta variant is highly transmissible (regardless of whether or not you’re vaccinated). We asked some of our student leaders to share some thoughts to keep in mind as we open the fall semester in the video below. 

Let’s break this down:

  • Yes, most students are at lower risk, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. 
  • One reason we want to reduce infection is because we don’t know the long-term effects of COVID. You may not think it’s a big deal if you do get COVID, especially if you are vaccinated. However, no one knows the long-term effects of COVID. In short—you don’t want this.
  • We need your help in reducing spread for those who can’t be vaccinated—that includes some of your immunocompromised peers and staff and faculty with young children (who can’t be vaccinated). It is up to all of us to keep the most vulnerable among us safer.

We’re committed to creating a community in which Duke students can learn and thrive. Duke wants to support as many opportunities for you to connect with your faculty and mentors, to explore research and leadership opportunities, and just have the chance to be together and have fun.  We’re going to do everything we can to safely promote events and opportunities for connection this year, particularly outdoor events.

A few reminders of what you need to do:

  • For the time being, everyone needs to be masked while indoors, including in residential common areas. This is also a local Durham ordinance.
  • Eat outside as much as possible, or take your food to-go. We’re still seeing higher transmission rates indoors and over shared meals, so do what you can to mitigate any risk for yourself and others while eating.
  • Participate in surveillance testing weekly. Most breakthrough cases are asymptomatic or resemble a mild cold, so you might not know you’re positive without the surveillance test. Student Health will contact you within 48 hours if you’ve tested positive for COVID.

We also hope you’ll think with us about all that we’ve learned in the past 15 months. 

We have learned a lot in the past year and recently we shared some thoughts with our faculty. We’ve also been talking with students about ways many of you have built intentional practices, gained new skills, and found ways to connect to your  passions and purpose in the pandemic. How do we go forward from here and build on that learning? There will be opportunities to connect and engage this fall, and we’re eager to be in conversation with your student groups and residential communities to think about how we can encourage your growth here at Duke.

Thank you for helping us kick off this academic year as safely as possible. We can’t wait to see you at the Blue Devil Return or on the plaza soon! 

Go Duke, 

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

Two Clusters of COVID Cases Identified Among Students

Duke and Durham County Department of Public Health have identified two clusters of COVID-19 cases related to gatherings of two groups of students over the last week. A “cluster” is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more related cases that are deemed to be in close proximity of time and location, such as a residential hall or apartment complex. 

For more information, visit the story on Duke Today.

Building Access for the Fall Semester

TO: Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers
FROM:
Kyle Cavanaugh, Vice President, Administration
Jim Churchman, Vice President, Supply Chain Management
RE: Building Access for Fall Semester

In preparation for the fall semester, Duke University will return to its normal building access for campus buildings effective Monday, Aug. 16. Research labs in the School of Medicine will continue to require an active DukeCard for access.

  • Buildings that are normally open to public access will return to that status on August 16. DukeCards will not be required during regular business hours.
  • Buildings such as residence halls that were in a controlled-access state before the pandemic will remain so after August 16. Any other modifications to building access should be made to the DukeCard Office.
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to complete symptom monitoring to activate their DukeCards.
  • Individuals who are NOT vaccinated WILL be required to complete symptom monitoring every day to reactivate their DukeCards.
  • All students, faculty and staff should continue to report any COVID-related symptoms using the SymMon app or by contacting Employee Occupational Health and Wellness or Student Health.
  • Schools and departments should ensure appropriate staffing in buildings during normal operating hours. Delivery companies and vendors will begin delivering packages directly to buildings that are open.
  • Numerous packages still remain unclaimed at the central receiving location set up by Procurement & Supply Chain last year at the Golden Drive Warehouse. Inquiries about missing packages should be directed to deliveryinquiries@duke.edu with any available tracking information and original recipient/location details. The Golden Drive Warehouse location will begin phasing out its redelivery status once the buildings are open on August 16, 2021.

Thank you for your attention to these changes.

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