COVID-19 clusters at Duke involve women’s field hockey team, medical students

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Just days before thousands of students are set to return to Duke University for the fall semester, two COVID-19 clusters involving Blue Devil students have been identified.

More than 35 Duke University students have tested positive for COVID-19 after they attended what the school described as “gatherings in various locations in Durham.”

Two clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks were found on Duke University’s campus. The Blue Devils still plan to have in-person classes on campus this fall. (Crystal Price)

A cluster involving 29 Duke medical students was identified by the university and the Durham County Department of Public Health on Friday, while a second cluster includes seven members of the women’s field hockey team.

In both clusters, all the students involved were vaccinated and most have reported no symptoms.

“Some of the cases were discovered because there are some students who had symptoms, but those symptoms were very mild,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke University’s chief communications officer said.

But Schoenfeld also said the university found some of the cases through surveillance testing, as students still must get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, even if they have been vaccinated.

All 36 of the students who tested positive for the virus in the two clusters are quarantining for 10 days. Contact tracers have also contacted those who were in close contact with those involved in the clusters.

CBS 17 asked Duke University officials if they plan to make any changes to their COVID-19 safety policies in response to these two clusters.

“We are constantly reviewing, assessing, and if necessary, pivoting,” Schoenfeld said.

He also added Duke has already mandated masks be worn indoors, and are encouraging students to eat outside when possible. While he said there aren’t any changes in the works right now, he said that is subject to change, too.

“I anticipate as this phase of the pandemic continues to develop, we will continue to make adjustments and refinements overtime,” Schoenfeld said.

Duke freshman Emilio Abelmann is excited to move onto campus next week, but with these two clusters that have popped up, he plans to be extra cautious.

“I think it’s definitely a concern running through a lot of student’s minds,” he said. “I’m definitely going to stay safe with the masks and the social distancing and making sure my friends and classmates are doing the same.”

Abelmann said he thinks Duke is doing everything it can to keep students safe, which he is thankful for.

“With weekly testing and masks, I’m still feeling comfortable despite the recent clusters,” Abelmann said.

Students begin moving into the dorms on Tuesday and all classes this fall will be in person.

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