Duke students nervous about returning to campus amid COVID-19 pandemic

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — While Duke University leaders released a plan to reopen campus this fall, some students are concerned about coming back as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in North Carolina.

Duke’s reopening plan will include some in-person classes, online classes, and some classes that will be a mix of both.

Students will not find out the format of their classes until late July.

Troy Zha is a computer science major who will be a junior at Duke this fall.

While he would like to get back to campus, he has concerns about everyone going back in the midst of the pandemic.

“I’m skeptical that Duke will be able to contain the virus on campus, especially since everyone is in such close quarters,” Zha said.

But university leaders tell CBS 17 they are taking steps to make sure students and staff are socially distanced.

“There is a lot of creativity that is being deployed right now,” said Michael Schoenfeld, VP of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Duke University.

Schoenfeld said when students return back to campus everyone will be required to wear masks and some in-person classes will not be in standard classrooms.

“We will be having some classes in theaters, performance spaces, meeting rooms, and conference rooms,” Schoenfeld said.

He said this will allow them to make sure everyone is six feet apart.

Schoenfeld said on-campus living will be different as well. He told CBS 17 that most students will be living in single rooms and some will be housed in nearby hotels in an effort to space out the student population.

Also in an effort to minimize the spread, the University is asking students not to leave the Durham area during the semester.

“Obviously we can’t compel anybody, but that will be part of the pledge,” Schoenfeld said. “We know that traveling to areas that have higher rates of infection can be a vector for concern.”

Zha said he is hopeful these safety measures will work, but to be on the safe side he has decided to live off campus.

“I think that gives us a little bit more flexibility in case the University closes again due to COVID-19,” Zha said.

University leaders said students will be given the option to take an “in-person” class online if they do not feel comfortable attending class.

In addition, all undergrads must be tested for COVID-19 before attending class on campus.

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