Category: For Faculty Page 1 of 16

Masking Strongly Recommended in Classrooms

Jan. 16, 2023

Students, Faculty and Staff,

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified Durham in the high-risk category again last week, we are seeing signs of declining trends at Duke and in the community. As a result, masking in classrooms and other indoor gatherings is strongly recommended but will not be required at this time.

Last week, COVID cases in Durham dropped by 40 percent, as did hospitalizations. With your support and preventive efforts, we have also seen our cases on campus drop more than 60 percent in the last week, even with a return to full campus activities. We believe these downward trends will continue and expect Durham to drop below the high community level soon.

Faculty members still have the option to require that students continue to wear masks in their classrooms if they wish to do so, and members of our community who choose to mask should be supported for their efforts to keep colleagues safe. As a reminder, masks are also required on all Duke buses and vans and in all patient-care settings.

In an effort to protect yourself and others around you, anyone who has flu-like symptoms should not go to class or work, should wear a mask, and should get a PCR test to confirm whether your symptoms are from COVID. Testing is available at Student Health or by reporting symptoms through the SymMon app or by caling the Employee Health COVID hotline at 919-385-0429, option 1.

It is also not too late to get a bivalent COVID booster, which is highly effective at reducing infection, reducing transmission and reducing the potential for severe illness.

These efforts will help mitigate further spread of COVID and other respiratory viruses on campus and in our community. 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 & Student Health Director
Associate Professor, Family Medicine & Community Health

Cameron R. Wolfe, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine
Transplant Infectious Disease

Take Precautions to Prevent COVID on Campus

January 9, 2023

Students, Faculty and Staff,

As the spring semester gets underway, we want to strongly encourage anyone with flu-like symptoms to wear a mask indoors and in gatherings with others.

We are seeing an expected surge in COVID and other respiratory illnesses following the holidays and new variants that are proving to be more contagious. In many cases, individuals have tested negative for COVID using a rapid antigen test only to test positive later. Home tests are reliable when positive but may render a false negative result for several days after symptom onset. This means you could be infecting others during your most contagious phase of illness.

Due to increased cases in our community, the Centers for Disease Control moved Durham to its “high risk” category last Thursday. If Durham remains at high risk for two consecutive weeks, we will return to mandatory masking in classrooms until the rating drops below high risk. Faculty members still have the option to request that students continue to wear masks in their classrooms if they wish to do so.

If you have flu-like symptoms, you can get a PCR test at Student health or Employee Health to confirm whether your symptoms are from COVID or submit a symptom report through the SymMon app or by calling the Employee Health COVID hotline at 919-385-0429, option 1.

For those who are not experiencing symptoms, you can get a PCR test at two locations on campus or pick up a rapid antigen test at no charge with a DukeID through Duke Stores in the Bryan Center.

We also want to encourage anyone who has not yet done so to get your influenza vaccine or bivalent COVID booster. These vaccines are among the best ways to protect yourself and others from severe illness.

Thank you and best wishes for a safe and healthy spring semester.

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

This message was sent to all students, faculty and staf within Duke University.

COVID Safety Protocols for the Spring Semester

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we enter the holiday season, we want to share some important guidance related to the safety of our community.

First, in addition to COVID, there are a number of respiratory viruses with similar symptoms circulating in our area. If you have symptoms or a known exposure to any respiratory virus (including COVID), please be considerate of others and wear a mask indoors and when in close proximity to other people.

If you have symptoms, you should also get a COVID test rather than assume you have a cold or allergies. A negative at-home antigen test, especially during early onset of symptoms, does not rule out the possibility of COVID. If you have symptoms, you can get a PCR test at Student Health, Employee Occupational Health & Wellness, or another healthcare provider to confirm whether your symptoms are from COVID.

These steps will help greatly in our efforts to reduce the transmission of infectious viruses that contribute to missed classes for students and faculty, as well as staffing shortages for Duke’s campus and clinical operations.

International students and others who need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to their home countries can get a PCR test at one of the on-campus test sites, which are open Monday through Thursday 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.

In addition, we have established the following guidelines for the spring semester:

  • All students should get a negative COVID test before arriving on campus, preferably within 72 hours of arrival. Test results are not required to be submitted to Duke, but participation is considered as part of the Duke Community Standard.
  • Any student who tests positive should contact Student Health and delay their arrival until cleared by Student Health.
  • Duke will continue to offer limited surveillance testing for asymptomatic students, faculty and staff until Friday, March 10, 2023. The following two test sites will be available from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday until that time:
    • Washington Duke Inn
    • Levine Science Research Center (LSRC)
  • While asymptomatic testing on campus will end March 10, 2023, testing will continue to be available for those who have symptoms as needed at Student Health or by calling the COVID Hotline at Employee Health (919-385-0429 option 1).
  • In addition, Duke will be securing at-home antigen tests that will be available through the Duke Stores’ Service Desk in the Bryan Center. One test kit per week is available at no charge to any student, faculty or staff member with a valid DukeCard. 
  • Masks will be required on Duke buses and vans for the beginning of the spring semester and will be reassessed later in the semester based on case rates in the community.
  • Due to influenza, RSV and the circulation of other respiratory viruses, masking indoors is strongly recommended for anyone with symptoms, regardless of test results for COVID. Masking also provides a measure of additional protection for individuals who wish to avoid infection by any of the circulating respiratory viruses, so please respect the right of others to mask.

We have had some clusters of COVID in recent weeks from people not masking after a known exposure or a false-negative at-home antigen test. Our hope is to limit such events so that we can embrace a richer and more engaging time together when we return after the holidays. Until then, be safe and enjoy the holidays with friends and family.

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

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

Guidance on Holiday Parties, Gatherings and Travel

The following memo was sent to Duke University leaders and managers on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022.

TO:       Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers

FROM:  Carol Epling, MD, MSPH, Executive Director, Employee Occupational Health & Wellness

Matthew Stiegel, Ph.D., Director, Occupational and Environmental Safety Office

RE:       Guidance on Holiday Parties, Gatherings and Travel

As we approach the holiday season, we are closely monitoring new COVID variants that are beginning to gain ground across the U.S., as well as increasing reports of influenza and other respiratory viruses such as RSV. This is a particularly concerning trend as many people plan to travel to other parts of the country and gather with friends and family during the holidays.

We are all ready to return to more normal activities, but we must remember the pandemic is still with us and poses a dangerous threat to many, especially those who are immunocompromised. The most important action we can all take is to get vaccinated for the flu and receive the updated bivalent COVID booster, which not only protects us from severe illness but also our friends, family, and colleagues. We strongly encourage everyone to get a free COVID booster and flu vaccine at one of our on-site clinics or at any other healthcare provider before traveling for the holidays.

While the University allows workplace holiday gatherings, we encourage people to follow safe practices to help reduce the potential spread of respiratory viruses currently circulating. These include practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a well-fitting mask when in close quarters with others unless actively eating or drinking. Outdoor events present a much lower risk for COVID transmission.   While the weather may not be as accommodating in colder months, heated outdoor spaces can be found. Most importantly, if you are sick or have any respiratory symptoms, do not attend gatherings with others.

During the last two years, we have seen staff shortages due to an increase in COVID cases directly related to travel during the holidays. For those traveling using mass transit (airplanes, buses, trains, etc.) during the holidays, we suggest wearing a well-fitting mask to reduce your risk of infection and the risk to others. We also suggest you consider recent exposure before gathering with others, especially those who may be at higher risk for severe illness or complications, and getting a test beforehand.

As we enter the holiday season, we are already in the midst of a surge of flu and RSV. We can take steps to reduce our individual and community risk by continuing to follow these guidelines. Thank you for your ongoing leadership, support, and efforts to keep everyone safe during this critical time.  

Masking Optional in Classrooms Beginning Sept. 22

Sept. 16, 2022

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As communicated earlier, Duke’s masking policy will be guided by the community risk category as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Thursday, Sept. 22, Durham will have been below the high-risk category for two consecutive weeks, so beginning that day masking will become optional in classrooms.

We recommend that anyone experiencing cold-like respiratory symptoms, even after a negative COVID test, continue to wear a mask indoors until symptoms resolve. Unvaccinated individuals, who are at increased risk for severe illness, are encouraged but will no longer be required to wear masks indoors beginning next Thursday. Please note that any individuals who feel more comfortable continuing to mask should do so and all members of the community should respect the rights of those who wish to remain masked. 

Faculty members may request that students continue to wear masks in their classrooms if they wish to do so. In such cases, faculty should clearly communicate those expectations to the class. Masking helps protect the masked individual, even in the presence of those who are unmasked, so those with concerns – faculty or students – should continue to wear a well-fitted mask in class.

Student who have tested positive or have COVID symptoms should not attend class until they have tested negative or been cleared by Student Health to return. Faculty will work with students to navigate any missed classes.

Masks will continue to be required on Duke buses and vans and in all clinical settings until further notice.

The best precaution you can take now is to get the new bivalent COVID booster, which protects against transmission from the current variants now in circulation. Appointments are being added to the COVID Vaccine website as supply becomes available. Boosters may also be available at your medical provider or local pharmacy.

Medical experts caution that we are not out of this pandemic yet, and we can expect ongoing variants to emerge that may prove more elusive to vaccines and antibodies and could lead to increases in severe illness and hospitalizations. If so, we must be ready to embrace a return to familiar restrictions and requirements, including indoor masking, that have proven effective in safeguarding our community.

But for now, as we take this next step towards more normalcy on campus and in classrooms, we are grateful for the efforts of all members of the Duke community that have allowed us to continue the work of the university throughout the pandemic.   

Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.

Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Russell Thompson,

Interim Vice President, Operations,

Emergency Coordinator

New Omicron COVID Booster Shots Available

Sept. 8, 2022

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Duke is beginning to offer the newly reformatted booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine that provide greater protection against the omicron variant of COVID, including the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants currently in circulation in our community and across the country.

The bivalent booster shots were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week for individuals who have had the initial series of the vaccine. The Pfizer booster is available to those ages 12 and older, and the Moderna booster is available to those 18 and older. Those who recently received an initial vaccine shot or a booster should wait two months before getting the new booster, and anyone who recently tested positive for COVID should wait 90 days after the onset of symptoms or a positive test.

Appointments are available through the Duke COVID Vaccine website for eligible students, faculty and staff. Appointments will expand as Duke Health receives additional shipments of vaccine throughout the month. But individuals should also explore other vaccination options such as local pharmacies or their healthcare provider.

We strongly recommend the bivalent booster shot for those who are eligible to help provide individual protection against severe illness and limit the potential for the broader community spread we typically see during the fall and winter months.

If you have waited to get a booster shot, this is the time to get it. Broad vaccination with this new booster can make a significant difference in finally getting to the other side of this pandemic. Thank you. 

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

John Vaughn, MD

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs,

Director of Student Health Services

Gail Shulby, RN, MA, CPPS
Chief of Staff to the Executive Vice President, Duke Health

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

Reminders about COVID Protocols for fall semester

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

We are looking forward to the beginning of the new academic year and vibrant activity on campus as many of our students arrive on campus later this week. As more people return to campus, we want to take this opportunity to remind you of our current COVID protocols to promote the safety of our community.

The latest COVID variants are far more transmissible than earlier variants, which has led to an increase in cases in recent weeks. By taking the appropriate precautions, we can help prevent the potential for a surge at the beginning of the semester that could hinder the ability for many to fully participate in campus life. 

Here are some quick reminders:  

  • Get tested before returning: Students are required 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 part of the Duke Community Standard. Anyone who tests positive should contact Student Health and delay their arrival until cleared by Student Health.
  • Be ready to mask upMasking is currently required in classrooms, on Duke buses and vans, and in all clinical settings. Masks will no longer be required in classrooms once the CDC community risk for Durham drops below “high” for two consecutive weeks. Masking is also recommended for other indoor gatherings while the community risk remains at “high” as defined by the CDC.
  • If in doubt, get tested: Duke will continue to offer asymptomatic testing for anyone who believes they may have been exposed to someone with COVID.
  • If you have any symptoms: Do not report to class or work, and contact Student Health or Employee Occupational Health & Wellness for symptomatic testing.
  • If you test positiveReport your results, wear a well-fitted mask, and isolate for a minimum of five days before returning to work or class. Wear a mask for another five days after isolation. Health sciences students will be required to isolate for seven days due to working in the healthcare environment.
  • If you live on campus: Residential students who test positive will isolate in place within their room. Roommates who have been exposed will need to test and also wear a mask. If you test negative and are medically high-risk for severe illness, you may request temporary alternative housing during your roommate’s isolation period.

You can find more information about all the COVID protocols for the fall semester on the Duke Coronavirus Response website.

Thank you and here’s to a great semester.

Sally A. Kornbluth
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Daniel Ennis,
Executive Vice President

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

Vaccine Booster Available for Children Ages 5-11

May 20, 2022

Faculty and Staff,

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a booster dose the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11, and we encourage parents at Duke to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician to get the vaccine to help protect them and others from the spread of COVID.

While hospitalizations remain low, cases are continuing a steady increase in our area and on our campus, including some who have now tested positive on multiple occasions. So, if you haven’t already, get your required booster shot once eligible or a second booster, if you meet the criteria. Breakthrough infections are less likely, and the possibility of developing severe illness requiring hospitalization is significantly lower if an individual is fully vaccinated and boosted. Details regarding appointments and walk-in clinics are available on the COVID Vaccinewebsite. If you have questions about if and when you should get a booster, you can find answers in a recent Q&A on Duke Today.

Limited surveillance testing is still being offered on campus for asymptomatic students, faculty and staff. Please note that testing will be closed on Monday, May 30 in observance of Memorial Day. Anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms should not participate in surveillance testing but should instead call the COVID Hotline (919-385-0429 option 1 for employees) to be tested and receive support and guidance, as appropriate.

The federal government has also now made additional home test kits available. Individuals can easily request up to 8 test kits per household. Any faculty or staff member who tests positive from an outside test should still call the COVID Hotline (919-385-0429 option 1 for employees) to report it to Employee Occupational Health and Wellness.

As we manage through this increase in cases, we encourage people to wear masks when gathering with people indoors to help prevent the spread of the virus. Masking remains one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others, and it is still required on all campus buses/vans, in classrooms, and in clinical settings.

Thank you, and have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Carol Epling, MD, MSPH
Assistant Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health

Gail Shulby, RN, MA, CPP
Chief of Staff to the Executive Vice President Emeritus Duke Health

Cameron R. Wolfe, MBBS (Hons), MPH, FIDSA
Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Duke Health

Paul Grantham,
Assistant Vice President of Communication Services, Deputy Emergency Coordinator

Co-Leaders of the COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Work Group

Masking Requirement for Summer Session

TO:Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers
FROM:Sally A. Kornbluth, Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Paul Grantham, Assistant Vice President, Deputy Emergency Coordinator
RE:Masking Requirement for Summer Session

Today marks the beginning of Duke’s Summer Session, and because we are seeing an increase in COVID cases on campus and in our community, we will continue to require masks for in-person classes, on Duke buses and vans, and in all clinical settings.

The current increase in COVID cases is the result of the BA.2 subvariant that has now become the dominant strain in our community. While severe illness is less likely with this strain, we are seeing a slow but steady increase in hospitalizations in the state and in our community. Thankfully, no Duke faculty, staff or students are currently hospitalized.

Indoor gatherings, especially when eating together, continue to pose an increased risk for transmission. Masking remains 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.

Vaccination Clinics:

Duke has added additional options for employee vaccination clinics, and we encourage everyone to get a booster shot or second booster once eligible. Breakthrough infections are less likely, and the possibility of developing severe illness requiring hospitalization is significantly lower if an individual is fully vaccinated and boosted. Details regarding appointments and walk-in clinics are available on the COVID Vaccine website. Please consult your health care provider if you have questions about the vaccination.

COVID Testing:

Duke continues to offer limited surveillance testing Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer. Testing is currently being offered at the Washington Duke Inn on Monday – Wednesday and at the Levine Science Research Center (LSRC) on Thursday. No appointment is needed.

Anyone experiencing COVID-like symptoms should contact Employee Occupational Health and Wellness COVID Hotline (919-385-0429 option 1) or Student Health (919-681-9355, option 2) to be tested and receive support and guidance, as appropriate.

Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to helping lead us through what we hope are the end stages of this pandemic.

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