Duke adds safety protocols as COVID cases increase among students


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Duke University announced new on-campus protocols to help limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a letter sent by university leaders.

Among the changes is requiring masks both indoors and outdoors. Also, all Duke University staff and faculty will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the letter said.

“It’s a little disappointing because obviously, we thought requiring everyone to have a vaccine would reduce the amount of mask-wearing, but I’m happy about it because I hope that it means we’ll go back to fully normal faster,” said Duke freshman Anna Goldberg.

Duke said its surveillance testing program gave it detailed insight into how pervasive the delta variant is among the campus community. In the last week, the university said 304 undergraduates, 45 graduates, and 15 employees tested positive.

All but eight of them were vaccinated.

The others are breakthrough cases.”

They do have the ability to spread COVID to others as well. Even if you are fully vaccinated, we do have many of members of our community who have children, relatives, family members, others who are not vaccinated who are vulnerable,” Michael Schoenfeld with Duke University said.

Schoenfeld explained Duke has one of the most aggressive COVID-19 surveillance programs in the state.

A total of 98 percent of students and 92 percent of staff are vaccinated.

All students, despite their vaccination status, are required to get tested once a week. Student-athletes get tested every day.

“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,” the letter said.

Beginning Monday, Duke said:

  • Masks are required in all indoor and outdoor settings. Exceptions are made for people exercising alone, eating and drinking, and when others aren’t around.
  • Indoor group seating at dining facilities was suspended. They will serve food in a grab-and-go manner and have more outdoor seating options.
  • Faculty teaching undergraduate courses have the option to teach remotely for the next two weeks.
  • Limitations will be placed student activities.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations will now be required for all Duke University staff and faculty as a condition of employment.

So what are the other two big universities in our area doing?

UNC-Chapel Hill didn’t respond to CBS 17’s question about tracking breakthrough cases. They said they are “taking a layered approach to safety.” 

Breakthrough cases aren’t listed on UNC-Chapel Hill’s dashboard.

They said 89 pecent of students are vaccinated. 

N.C. State’s dashboard doesn’t include information about how many students are vaccinated or breakthrough cases.

They write, “an increase in positive cases last week is due to an increase in testing.”

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