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March 2024 CDC COVID-19 Guidance Changes

The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC has changed its guidance for non-healthcare workers/non-healthcare settings regarding isolation and masking during COVID-19 infection. Our Infection Prevention (IP), Employee Occupational Health & Wellness (EOHW), Occupational & Environmental Safety Office (OESO) teams want to clarify the impact on team members and patients by sharing the following information.

What does this mean for our team members?

Narrowed definition of patient-facing healthcare personnel (HCP) as follows: Personnel who directly interact with patients (i.e., you come within 6 feet of patients in your daily work) or personnel who work closely with colleagues who directly interact with patients.

Patient-facing HCP guidance:

  • No changes have been made to our current approach for patient-facing HCP with COVID-19 infection:
  • 5-day mandatory isolation then wear a well-fitting mask to complete 10 days after the first day of symptom onset
  • Must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-suppressing medication AND symptoms are improving to return to work

Non-patient-facing HCP guidance:

  • Team member will self-determine their return-to-work date following these rules:
  • May not work while sick with fever, systemic symptoms, or severe symptoms (i.e. significant cough)
    Must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-suppressing medication AND symptoms are improving to return to work
  • Upon return to work, the team member must wear a well-fitting mask while around other people to complete 10 days after the first day of symptom onset.

What does this mean for our patients?

  • The guidance does not apply to COVID-19 infected patients’ isolation precautions or duration of isolation while receiving care in inpatient or outpatient healthcare settings.
  • Transmission-based precautions (gloves, gown, eye protection, N95 or PAPR) should still be used by team members when caring for COVID-19 infected patients for the duration of isolation (10 or 20 days).
  • Patients with active COVID-19 infection should continue to wear well-fitting masks when visiting outpatient healthcare spaces or leaving their hospital rooms for required diagnostics/procedures/etc. for the duration of isolation (10 or 20 days).

A Reflection: The End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On Jan. 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, launching what would become a three-year crusade against a new and dangerous virus. Across Duke Health and beyond, the pandemic created anxiety, fear and sadness, while also inspiring innovation, bravery and acts of kindness.

On Thursday, May 11, 2023, the pandemic comes to an official end with the revocation of the public health emergency. Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialists who served on the front lines of care at Duke, reflects on all that has transpired over the past three years.

Health Guidance for Upcoming Events

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

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

 Paul Grantham, Assistant Vice President, Communications, Deputy Emergency Coordinator

RE:       Health Guidance for Upcoming Events

As we approach the end of the academic year and commencement, we want to provide some guidance on gatherings and eating in congregate settings to help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 as we close out the semester.

During the last couple of weeks, we have seen an uptick in cases on campus. This uptick coincides with recent travel over spring break, gatherings afterward, and the emergence of the BA.2 subvariant in our community. Thankfully, we have not seen a corresponding increase in severe cases or hospitalizations. By taking common sense precautions, departments and units can safely gather to celebrate the end of the academic year.

These precautions include:

  • All attendees (employees, students and their guests) should be vaccinated.
  • Outdoor events and gatherings present a much lower risk for COVID transmission, especially if serving food.
  • No individuals should be required or expected to attend a reception, party or gathering. We should recognize that some of our colleagues have family or health concerns and will choose not to participate.
  • Masking is still required on Duke buses and vans, in classrooms and clinical settings.
  • Masking remains one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others, especially in indoor settings. We should respect an individual’s decision to wear a mask even if it is not required. 

The end of the academic year is a time of celebration, and we hope to do so in a responsible way to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Thank you for your continued diligence as we navigate this latest uptick in cases at the end of the semester.

Update on Reporting COVID-Related Absences

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

FROM: Kyle Cavanaugh, Vice President, Administration

RE: Update on Reporting COVID-Related Absences

In June, we announced a transition period from July 1 – Aug. 31, 2021, to allow staff to use up to 40 hours of COVID paid time without using their accrued time off. Beginning Sept. 1, staff would then use their accrued time (sick leave, vacation, etc.) for all instances where work in not being performed.

As a result of a recent update to state and federal guidelines, Duke has modified this policy to ensure that anyone who has exhausted their accrued time off and is required to be out of work due to the COVID-related issues below will be kept in a paid status until cleared by Employee Occupational Health & Wellness (EOHW) to return to work.

  1. The policy specifically covers absences for any of the following reasons:
  2. COVID testing (up to two shifts per test)
  3. Quarantine or isolation related to COVID
  4. Hospitalized because of COVID or COVID complications
  5. Side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine (up to one shift per dose)

COVID-19 paid time is not applicable for quarantine required due to a return from personal international travel. Individuals returning from international travel should follow the appropriate guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If individuals may be able to work remotely during this time with the approval of their supervisor. If remote work is not possible, individuals will need to use accrued time off to remain in a paid status during their quarantine period.

Submitting & Tracking COVID Time

  • To maintain confidentiality, Employee Occupational and Health Wellness (EOHW) will include the appropriate COVID-19 pay code on the Health Recommendation Form (HRF).
  • Supervisors should then submit a Gross Adjustment form to Corporate Payroll Services using the designated pay code and corresponding reason code provided by EOHW so the time is paid as part of the normal payroll cycle. This form is only necessary for biweekly-paid (non-exempt) staff, since monthly-paid (exempt) staff will continue to receive their salary for time missed.
  • Staff members should not report the time on their timecard or record the time as vacation or sick leave between July 1 – Aug. 31.
  • Managers should use the COVID Time Tracking form to track any COVID Time used by biweekly-paid and monthly-paid staff members to ensure no individual exceeds the 40-hour cap from July 1 – Aug. 31. Tracking COVID Time will no longer be required after Aug. 31.

In all cases, staff members will be required to be cleared to return to work by EOHW and are expected to report to their next scheduled shift. COVID-19 Paid Time is provided at the team member’s base rate of pay without differentials.

We appreciate your ongoing flexibility in managing this process in response to changing dynamics with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you.

Student Conduct Updates March 17 — Sent to Parents and Families

This message was sent to parents and families of undergraduate students

Dear Parents and Families, 

Each month the Dean of Students Office sends an update to all undergraduate students to provide transparency and awareness of our response to COVID-19 related and other allegations of misconduct. Duke University takes the health and safety of the Duke and Durham communities seriously and part of our responsibility during a pandemic is educating our students about their responsibilities and holding individuals accountable when violations of policy occur.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards has reviewed all submitted allegations of Duke Compact violations and held those found responsible of flagrant or repeated disregard of these policy expectations accountable. 

Parent & Family Programs  

This message was followed by the full email sent to undergraduate students. That message is available here:

Update to Trinity S/U Grading Policy this Fall Semester

The message is being sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Dear Duke Students,

It is a privilege to write to you as the newly appointed Dean of Academic Affairs for the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. I’m honored to work with you and our faculty and staff to ensure that we’re supporting you during your time at Duke.

Leaders of our faculty governing body, the Executive Committee of the Arts & Sciences Council, recently met to discuss urgent faculty proposals regarding Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading policies for Fall 2020. The committee decided to allow Trinity departments to choose which of their courses—numbered 199 and below—should be graded as S/U this fall.

You can view the final list of fall courses in Trinity that will be graded S/U here:

There are several things you should know about the Executive Committee’s decision:

  • The change for these courses is to a mandatory S/U grading basis, so no student in these S/U courses will be able to opt into receiving a letter grade.
  • As a special provision of this decision, courses converted to S/U under this policy will satisfy the requirements of any major, minor or certificate program as well as T-Reqs and other requirements for graduation.
  • Any S/U courses you take this fall will not count toward the number of S/Us allowable per year or upon graduation.
  • S/U grades are not factored into your GPA, and will not count toward Latin Honors.
  • No decision has been made in regards to S/U grading for Spring 2021, and any extension of this policy would follow further review by the Trinity Arts & Sciences Council this fall.

Please note that this decision applies only to courses that originate in Trinity. It does not apply, for instance, to courses that originate in Pratt or Nicholas or Sanford. However, as noted above, the S/U grading basis will apply to courses that originate in Trinity and are cross-listed in other departments or schools.

Faculty governance entities like the Arts & Sciences Council and the checks and balances they provide to administration are an important and necessary part of Duke operations. The details regarding these changes were long considered by our faculty leaders and are intended to alleviate stress and prioritize your well-being.

Over the past month, I have listened to and spoken with students enrolled in my summer school course, current Duke students, and even former Duke students regarding their concerns about COVID-19, police brutality, the upcoming election, students’ roles in protesting, student housing, graduation and careers, extracurricular activities, and college sports. These conversations have been challenging, thought-provoking, gratifying and eye-opening. I entered them understanding that many of you were feeling pressure due to the uncertainty of life in 2020, but I came away realizing that many of you are also deeply concerned about a myriad of other issues. I left these discussions hopeful and emboldened by the passion and voice of Duke students.

As someone who is deeply invested in the lives of Duke undergraduates, I know that you are all working through a very difficult year. As you prepare for Fall 2020, please understand that Duke University is a better place because you are here. I miss seeing all of you on campus and I am looking forward to having some of you in my class this fall. If I can be of any help, please do not hesitate to reach out.


Martin P. Smith
Dean of Academic Affairs of Trinity College
Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Assistant Professor, Program in Education
Duke University

Pool Testing for Undergraduate Students

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Dear undergraduate students,

We are writing to share information about additional measures the University is taking to protect the health and safety of the campus community during the fall semester. As undergraduate classes get underway next week, the University will begin ongoing testing of students and other members of the campus community who are here in the Durham area and not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19. These additional tests will be conducted regularly beginning the week of Aug. 17.

In addition to the testing of all students coming to campus and the daily symptom monitoring, this additional step will help us identify and respond to the potential spread of the virus and limit the potential for local outbreaks. This ongoing testing process will begin with undergraduate students residing on campus. It will be expanded in subsequent weeks to include other Duke student populations and then faculty and staff who regularly interact with students on campus.

The self-administered process should take about 5 minutes, and testing sites will be established in multiple locations on East and West campuses for convenience. Collection of samples will involve a testing participant inserting a cotton swab into each nasal passage and rotating it against the inner nasal lining in a circle three times. The swab does not need to be inserted far—just enough so the cotton tip is no longer visible. The swab is then placed into a collection tube with a bar code, which will be placed in a bag and then deposited into a cooler at the collection station. Site coordinators at each location will ensure these tests are transported to a nearby lab and any positive test result will be communicated back to the student within 48 hours.

This testing process will be conducted throughout the fall semester. Duke hopes to make this as quick and convenient as possible for all participants, and it is critical that you participate to ensure we can maintain on-campus activities during the pandemic. Participants will need to bring their DukeCard ID or their mobile phone with the SymMon mobile app to one of the many testing sites that will be conveniently located across campus.

If you are selected for pool testing, you’ll receive an email and text message alerting you to your day. Please be sure to attend carefully to these texts and plan accordingly. You can find more information about the process, testing sites and answers to frequently asked questions on the Duke United website.

Thank you and go Duke,

John Vaughn, M.D.
Director of Student Health Services

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Gary G. Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Duke Updates Plans for Fall Semester

With the growing numbers of new COVID-19 cases in both North Carolina and the country, Duke University is adjusting plans for the residential component of its fall semester.

In a message sent to Duke students, faculty and staff Sunday, President Vincent E. Price said the university will limit Duke-provided housing in the fall to first-year students, sophomores and students who require special accommodations because of personal, academic or other reasons.  Juniors and seniors will receive priority for the spring semester, Price added, with first-year students and sophomores to join them if conditions improve.

(The full message, along with an FAQ on residential life, safety measures, and COVID-19 testing, can be found on Duke Today.)

Invitation to Faculty to Submit Comments for Fall Planning

This message was sent by email to all Duke Faculty on June 11, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Summer is usually a time of relaxation and restoration after the intensity of the academic year, and an opportunity to advance your research and scholarship.  This particular summer, of course, is anything but relaxing.   I know that you have devoted considerable time and energy to transitioning your classes and research to the new work-from-home and remote teaching realities and that preparing for the fall will require continued hard work.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to every member of the faculty for your extraordinary dedication to your students, your scholarship and to Duke.

In planning to meet our goal of welcoming students back to campus, President Price and I, along with many members of the university and academic administration, have engaged with our faculty colleagues in the schools, on various committees, and the Academic Council to talk about the various options for the fall semester.

Since there are many aspects of the upcoming semester that are still being refined, from classroom configuration to campus dining, I invite you to the share your questions and concerns on this open-ended survey form (open until Wednesday, June 17 at 11:59pm EDT).  Your submissions will be anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and will be shared with the appropriate university leaders for consideration and, as needed, action.  If you have questions or concerns about specific situations or issues, I encourage you to contact your dean or department chair.

I want to reiterate here that our foremost priority is the health and safety of every member of the Duke community, including faculty, staff, and students as well as our families and neighbors.  And as we noted last month, you will not be required to teach on campus if you have concerns about your health and safety, nor will you have to disclose your personal health information or seek special accommodations if you choose to teach through an online or remote delivery.

Thank you again for being part of this inspiring academic community.  I look forward to hearing from you, and to seeing you either virtually or, hopefully soon, in person.


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

Update for Staff from President Price on Fall 2020

Dear Colleagues,  

As we continue to prepare for the 2020-21 academic year—a year that will be unlike any other in Duke’s history—I want to provide you with an update and further direction on our planning. As it has from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of our campus and Durham community is our paramount priority and will always drive decisions.  

Across the university, many are working around the clock to continue our core missions of education, research, patient care, and service with the excellence that characterizes Duke.  Already we have reopened—deliberately, thoughtfully and safely—numerous research laboratories and clinical practices, bringing several thousand faculty, staff and graduate students back to campus with new safety practices, and we are learning every day from their experience.  We have also been in contact with many university colleagues over the last several months to understand their interests and concerns during this challenging time.  

We are still on track to decide many details about the upcoming academic year by the end of June. Let me tell you where we are now:   

Our goal is to enable as many of our students who are able and who choose to participate in an on-campus experience for the fall semester to do so, but only if it can be done safely.  We are fortunate to have, in Duke Health, the resources of a world-leading academic medical center to help guide and support our university community.  As our faculty and academic leaders collaborate to prepare a dynamic and flexible educational experience, we are working with medical and public health experts, as well as with specialists in residential and classroom facilities, food service and environmental health and safety to reinvent our living, working, and learning spaces and adapt to the new realities that we will confront in all aspects of our lives.  I will describe some of those details below.  

Our academic calendar will change to maximize our time on campus, and to minimize the disruptions and potential health hazards of travel during the semester.  Fall semester classes for undergraduates will begin a week earlier than originally planned, on Monday, August 17, and final exams will conclude before Thanksgiving.  We expect the arrival of residential students to be staggered over several days before the start of classes. There will not be a Fall Break in 2020.  The spring semester will begin a week later than normal, on Tuesday, January 19, and final exams will be held the week of April 26. Commencement for the Class of 2021 will take place on Sunday, May 9.  There will be no Spring Break in 2021. More information on course registration and re-registration, and housing assignments, will be available by the end of June.  

Our first-year students will receive additional information on move-in and orientation programs, which are being developed now. Orientation will include online programming prior to first-year students’ arrival on campus, which we now expect will take place over several days during the week of August 10.  Final details will be provided by the end of June.

Graduate and professional schools will operate on calendars specific to their needs, and students will be notified about the schedules directly by their schools.  

Assuming students will be on campus, all Duke courses will be offered in one of three formats: in-person instruction conducted in classrooms on the Duke campus, fully online courses that take advantage of the best pedagogy and technology available for remote education, and hybrid courses that involve some combination of in-person and online instruction.  Students who are on campus can expect their courses to be taught in both in-person and online modes.  Students who cannot or who do not wish to be on campus, or who have to be quarantined or return home, will still be able to engage in a full curriculum of courses and make progress toward their degrees.  To this end, all in-person classes will also have the necessary online components.  

Our faculty and staff, too, are making the transition to this new environment, and we have engaged experts in digital learning to ensure that we have the best guidance in developing and presenting our courses, whether in a newly-configured classroom or online.  In addition, courses that include labs, performances, travel, and other unique requirements will be revised to accommodate protocols for physical distancing and online access, though we recognize that might not be possible in all situations. We are also looking to create special “immersion” periods when students might come to campus to complete lab, or lab-type, components of courses.  

To do all this safely and successfully, we all must make significant changes to the way we live, study and work, and we are reconfiguring residential, classroom and office facilities to make it possible.  Success will only be achieved if all members of the Duke community do their part—which will call upon extraordinary mutual support, clearly articulated behavioral norms, and an unshakable personal commitment. To this end, we expect that all members of our university community will enter into a compact, the Duke Compact, that recognizes our shared responsibility for our collective health and well-being. Committing to the Duke Compact means we care enough about each other to comply with new policies and protocols. These are under careful development, and final policies and protocols will align with the latest and most reliable scientific information, experience, and local, state, and federal guidelines.  At this point, we expect practices along the following lines.   

  • All members of the Duke community—faculty, students, staff, visitors—will be required to wear masks in classroom and public settings and practice physical distancing as mandated by local law and university policy.
  • Robust and wide-ranging testing systems will be in place. All students living on campus will be tested for COVID-19 before they are permitted to begin classes.
  • All students will complete daily health checks through a monitoring app and report concerning symptoms to the Student Health and Wellness.
  • All students living in on-campus or off-campus housing will be expected to remain in the Durham area during the semester.
  • All students who report symptoms will have to follow the testing, contact tracing and quarantine protocols established by Duke, Durham County and the State of North Carolina should they become ill or exposed to COVID-19.
  • While many co-curricular and extra-curricular activities (lectures, performances, club activities,  events) will be held virtually, there will be opportunities for in-person gatherings that meet university and public health guidelines.
  • On-campus dining centers will provide expanded take-out options and limited in-person service using reservation systems.
  • Access to campus facilities by students, faculty, staff and visitors will be restricted and new guidelines on space configuration, capacity, traffic flow, cleaning and sanitation protocols will be in place.  

Perhaps more than ever before in our lifetimes, the actions of one member of our community can have catastrophic implications for all.  Thus, we will take these commitments seriously at all levels.  For students, failure to adhere to these guidelines could be grounds for disciplinary and other actions necessary to protect the health and safety of the Duke community.  

We remain steadfastly committed to inclusivity, and for its sake, to flexibility. We will continue to encourage, where practical, work from home.  Students who choose not to participate in the on-campus experience in 2020-2021 – or who are unable to be physically in Durham due to travel restrictions, personal circumstances, or family obligations – are assured that we will make every effort to support their continued learning and engagement in campus life while remote.  Our experience this spring has been instructive in many ways, and we will build on this unplanned shift to develop the safest possible working and learning conditions to advance our core missions.   

Finally, and it bears repeating, all of this is subject to change based on public health guidance, medical advice, local conditions and laws, and variables that may not even be known to us today.  Such is the nature of life in and after a pandemic.

Regardless of the circumstances, I know we will get through this.  It won’t look easy, and it won’t look anything like we’re used to experiencing.  But we’ll get through it because our people—faculty, students, staff, families and friends — are thoughtful, collaborative, creative, adaptable, and committed to excellence. We will get through it because we are Duke.     

I so look forward to seeing many of you on campus, in all the familiar places. In the meantime, stay tuned to your email and Duke websites for more information and updates. And please accept my very best wishes for your health and safety and the start of what will be an unforgettable summer.


Vincent E. Price

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