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Dec. 31 Update to Plans for Start of Spring Semester

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. 

Sincerely,

Sally Kornbluth
Provost

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.

Updated Guidance for the Start of the Spring Semester

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. 

COVID-19 Booster Shot Required as a Condition of Employment for University

NOTE: The deadline for the booster shot was extended to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021 

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As communicated earlier, Duke University will now require that all faculty and staff, regardless of work location, receive and show documentation of a completed COVID-19 booster vaccination as a condition of employment. Below are the details regarding compliance:

Requirement:

  • All faculty and staff members, regardless of work location, must receive and show documentation of their completed COVID-19 vaccination by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, or within 28 days of their eligibility under CDC and state guidelines.
  • Those who already have received an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement are exempt from the booster requirement and do not need to reapply for a new exemption. (Note: weekly COVID test and submission of daily symptom monitoring is required for those unvaccinated).
  • Anyone who has not received the booster shot or have an approved exemption by the deadline will be issued a Final Written Warning and placed on administrative leave. (Accrued vacation or discretionary holiday time may be used if available; otherwise, the leave will be unpaid.) After the seven days, anyone not compliant will be terminated and not recommended for rehire.

Documentation:

  • Faculty and staff who received their booster through Employee Occupational Health & Wellness (EOHW) do not need to provide additional documentation.
  • Those who received the booster in the community (such as a retail pharmacy or a Duke patient clinic), will need to submit an image of their booster vaccination documentation through the confidential Duke VaxTrax system so that our records can be updated accordingly.

Vaccination Locations:

Booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. While existing data suggests the Omicron variant appears to cause fewer cases of severe illness, it is also much more contagious than the Delta variant and can spread much more quickly, threatening our education, research, and healthcare activities. Getting the booster can help protect you, your friends, and your colleagues, as well as ensure that our hospital and clinical resources are available to support the community during a time of urgent need.

In addition to receiving your COVID-19 booster vaccination, it is crucial to continue to practice safe behaviors to keep ourselves and those around us safe and healthy. Wear a mask at all times in our facilities. Practice good hand hygiene. Maintain a safe distance from others, especially when removing your mask to eat or drink. Thank you for your continued partnership in helping to keep our community safe.

Sincerely,

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President, Administration

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

Plans for Start of Spring Semester at Duke

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

As we come to the end of a year that vividly illustrated Duke’s commitment to resilience, innovation and each other in so many ways, we must once again confront the reality of life in a global pandemic.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has upended our holiday celebrations and will continue to require our vigilance and flexibility in order to protect the health and safety of our community. We have faced these uncertainties and challenges before, and, thanks to your dedication, we have been able to continue our vital missions of education, research and service to society. Now we must do so again.

In close consultation with our infectious disease and public health specialists, we will have to make the following adjustments to the start of the Spring semester in order to protect the health of our campus and community members and ensure continuity of campus operations.

All undergraduate and graduate/professional classes will be held remotely from January 5-8, 2022. In-person instruction for undergraduates and most graduate and professional school programs is expected to resume on Monday, January 10. Students in certain graduate programs that operate on a different calendar will receive guidance from their schools.

All students enrolled at Duke for the Spring 2022 semester must:

  • Be prepared to submit proof that they have received a COVID booster shot before the end of January, or as soon thereafter as they are eligible according to CDC guidelines.
  • Attest that they have received a negative COVID test within 48 hours prior to returning to campus. Only PCR tests administered by a certified provider are acceptable; self-administered rapid/antigen tests will not be accepted. Students will receive attestation instructions via email. Students who test positive should not return to campus until their isolation period is completed.
  • Take an entry (surveillance) test administered by Duke as directed after returning to campus.
  • Sequester in their on- or off-campus residence until they receive notification via email that their sequester can end. According to CDC and state public health guidelines, individuals who receive a positive result in surveillance testing must isolate for 10 days before they can attend classes.

The Duke and Durham County requirements for indoor masking in all classrooms and public spaces remain in effect until further notice.

It is important to remember that, when it comes to COVID, we are still responding to circumstances beyond our control, so all of these plans are subject to change on short notice. What we can control are the tools and knowledge that we have gained over the past two years. Vaccines, booster shots, testing and masking have proved to be critical to ensuring both safety and the continuity of the Duke experience.

Our best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Sally Kornbluth
Provost

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.

COVID-19 Booster Shot to be Required for Students, Faculty and Staff

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

The Omicron variant has now emerged within the Durham community, and it is expected to quickly become the dominant strain as COVID-19 cases continue a rapid spike across the country. 

We are closely monitoring national, local and campus conditions in consultation with our infectious disease and public health specialists to determine if we need to make any changes in plans for the start of the Spring semester in January.

In the meantime, it is vital that we take the necessary steps to keep our campus and community safe.  Effective immediately, Duke University, Duke University Health System and the Private Diagnostic Clinic will require all students and employees to provide proof of receiving the COVID-19 booster shot in January or as soon as they are eligible under CDC and state guidelines.

More than 20,000 faculty and staff and nearly 4,000 students have already received their booster shots. For those who have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to get your booster shot as soon as you are eligible and submit the documentation to update your records.

You can find options to get a booster shot anywhere in the country using Vaccines.gov. For those in or around Durham, you can visit the Duke COVID Vaccine website to find options at Duke facilities across the region. For those who are unable to receive a booster shot before returning to campus after the winter break, additional opportunities will be made available on campus in January.

The CDC has said that individuals can choose any of the three boosters now authorized regardless of their original shot. Duke medical experts suggest that anyone who received the J&J vaccine preferentially get a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna, which have been proven highly effective in preventing infection and severe illness. 

Booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. While existing data suggests the Omicron variant appears to cause fewer cases of severe illness, it is also much more contagious than the Delta variant and can spread much more quickly, threatening our education, research, and healthcare activities. Getting the booster can help protect you, your friends, and your colleagues, as well as ensure that our hospital and clinical resources are available to support the community during a time of urgent need.

Guidelines and details for compliance will be shared in the coming days and will outline appropriate timelines consistent with current guidelines. But we wanted to provide you with advance notice of our plans so that you can take action as soon as possible.

These steps will help limit a potential outbreak on our campus and in our community and protect those most vulnerable to this virus. Additional information and resources, including options to get a booster shot, can found on the Duke COVID Vaccine website.

Sincerely,

Sally Kornbluth
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President, Administration

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

Get Your Booster Shot Before Upcoming Holidays

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break with family and friends. Unfortunately, the pandemic did not take a break, and we find ourselves now confronted with news of the omicron variant that appears to now be spreading throughout other regions of the world.

While scientists are still studying and assessing the risks and potential impact of this variant, the best precaution you can take now is to get your booster shot before the upcoming holidays, when more travel and indoor gatherings are expected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that all adults should receive the booster shot after six months of receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Duke has special clinics for faculty and staff, and we encourage you to do so at your earliest opportunity. Visit the Duke COVID Vaccine website to make an appointment or find a walk-in clinic.

The CDC also said that individuals can choose any of the three boosters now authorized regardless of their original shot. Duke medical experts suggest that anyone who received the J&J vaccine preferentially get a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna, which have been proven highly effective in preventing infection and severe illness. 

If you have already received your booster shot from an outside provider (any location, including Duke Health, not listed on the Duke COVID Vaccine website), please submit documentation of your additional dose through VaxTrax online form so we can update your records accordingly.

While the booster shot is not yet a condition of employment for Duke University or Duke University Health System at this time, we encourage all eligible individuals to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect you and others from potential infection during the winter months when people are expected to gather indoors more frequently. 

Thank you for your efforts to keep the Duke community safe during this new phase of the pandemic. Please continue wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining social distance.  

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration, Duke University

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, 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

Reminder: Schedule Your COVID-19 Booster Shot

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Currently, about 15,000 Duke faculty and staff have received their booster shot for the COVID-19 vaccine. As a reminder, you are eligible to receive a booster shot as long as you meet the time criteria since your last dose, which are described below:

  • Faculty and staff who have received their last dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over 6 months ago. 
  • Faculty and staff who have received their initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago and are 18 years of age or older.

Duke has already seen a recent uptick in positive cases in the last couple weeks, and we are seeing a rise in cases in Europe and in some northerns states. Getting a booster shot can help protect you, as well as your friends and family as we move into the holiday season when more people are expected to travel and gather in larger groups.

Employee vaccination clinics are located at Blue Devil Tower, Duke University Hospital, Duke Raleigh Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital by appointment (except at DRAH). Specifics about each clinic’s location and operating hours can be found on the Duke COVID Vaccine website. Appointments are being added regularly, so please check back later if you do not find an available appointment. 

Duke medical experts suggest that anyone who received the J&J vaccine preferentially get a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna, which have been proven highly effective in preventing infection and severe illness. A booster with the J&J vaccine also remains an alternative for these individuals. 

If you have already received your booster shot from an outside provider, please submit documention to Employee Occupational Health and Wellness using the VaxTrax online form.

While the booster shot is not a condition of employment for Duke University or Duke University Health System at this time, we encourage all eligible individuals to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect you and others from potential infection. 

Thank you for your efforts to keep the Duke community safe. Please continue wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining social distance.

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration, Duke University

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, 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

Guidance on Holiday Parties, Receptions and Gatherings

TO:Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers
FROM:Kyle Cavanaugh, Vice President, Administration
RE:Guidance on Holiday Parties, Receptions and Gatherings

With the approaching holiday season, we want to provide some general guidance on parties, receptions and gatherings. By taking common sense precautions, departments and units can safely celebrate the holidays, and our fellow faculty, staff and students. These precautions include:

  • All attendees (employees, students and their guests) should be vaccinated.
  • No individuals should be required or expected to attend a holiday party. We should recognize that some of our colleagues have family or health concerns and will choose not to participate. Likewise, we should also respect an individual’s decision to wear a mask even if it is not required by policy or local ordinance.
  • Outdoor events present a much lower risk for COVID transmission. There are a number of tents located around the campus and at area restaurants and event venues. While the weather may not be as accommodating in December as it was earlier in the fall, heated outdoor spaces can be found.
  • Holiday events that are held indoors on campus, in a restaurant or other public space must observe current university and municipal policies that are in place at the time of the event. As of November 10, both Duke and Durham County require masks for all indoor events unless individuals are actively eating or drinking.
  • Events at private residences are not covered by university and municipal polices, but we strongly encourage hosts to be prudent in terms of density and recommend that attendees wear masks unless actively eating or drinking.

The Duke community has gone to extraordinary lengths over the past two years to protect public health, which has made it possible for us to continue our education, research and service missions. While this is a time for much-needed celebration, it is also a time to remain vigilant, and to continue to look out for each other we enter what we hope will be the final phase of a global pandemic.

Vaccination of Children Ages 5-11 of Faculty and Staff

Duke Faculty and Staff,

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is now approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with children ages 5-11. As a result, Duke has scheduled dedicated vaccination clinic sessions for Duke University and Duke University Health System parents to bring their children in this age group for vaccination.

Appointments are required for the the weekend sessions at the following locations:

Duke Health North Durham Clinic (4220 N. Roxboro Street, Durham)
Times: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

  • Saturday, Nov. 6
  • Sunday, Nov. 7
  • Saturday, Nov. 13
  • Sunday, Nov. 14

Duke Raleigh Hospital, MOB 9 (3300 Executive Drive, Raleigh)
Times: 8a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

  • Saturday, Nov. 13
  • Sunday, Nov. 14
  • Saturday, Nov. 20
  • Sunday, Nov. 21

After these dates, the sites will be open for all children ages 5-11 years old, regardless of whether they are the dependents of Duke parents or are Duke patients. Given the limited capacity of this location, parents should also consider vaccination options at their pediatrician’s office or other available opportunities.

The vaccine for children in this age group is administered as a two-dose primary series, 3 weeks apart, but is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms). This vaccine has been proven to be 90.7 percent effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 among children ages 5-11.

The vaccination of children represents another important step toward protecting our loved ones, safeguarding our community from COVID-19, and bringing this pandemic to an end.

Sincerely,

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration

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

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 HealthCo-Leaders of the Duke COVID Vaccination Work Group

Easing Outdoor Masking Guidance

Nov. 2, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

We are writing today to update our guidance for outdoor masking given the lower prevalence of COVID-19 cases on campus and in our community. Individuals on campus no longer need to wear masks in outdoor congregate settings, including athletic events.

Individuals are encouraged to carry a mask to wear in the event social distancing cannot be effectively maintained in outdoor settings. Also, please respect anyone who chooses to continue wearing masks as a means to prevent exposure to themselves or loved ones.

Masks are still required indoors in all Duke owned and leased buildings, including in most areas of residence halls except a student’s assigned room. Masks are recommended—but not required—in semi-public residential spaces (commons rooms, laundry rooms). Masks are also required on all buses and at bus stops.

We have seen a significant decline in weekly cases on campus since a high of 364 cases in late August. During the last three weeks, our total weekly cases have been in the teens. This success is directly related to our vaccination rate and your diligence to practice prevention in your daily activities.

As we approach the holiday season, please continue to follow public health guidance to limit the potential for a spike in cases during indoor gatherings of friends and family. We also encourage everyone to get a booster shotonce you meet the eligibility criteria. Appointments can be made on the Duke COVID Vaccine website. Thank you for your commitment and perseverance throughout this pandemic.

Sally Kornbluth
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration

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

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