Duke University reports first COVID-19 cluster among students at off-campus apartment complex

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN)– Duke University is reporting its first COVID-19 cluster among students.

According to University officials, since October 7, a total of nine current Duke undergraduate students living at the Solis Apartments on Main Street in Durham have tested positive for COVID-19.

University officials said the Solis is not located on the Duke campus and it is not owned or operated by Duke. Duke students make up about one-quarter of the 470 residents at the complex, University officials said.

The first person who tested positive was identified through Duke’s surveillance testing program and went into isolation immediately, the University said.

Seven of the eight students who later tested positive were already in quarantine and are now in isolation, the University said.

The University said it is believed these cases happened within a particular social group and all students reported to be exposed are following guidelines for isolation/quarantine.

“All Duke students living at the Solis were informed of the situation and have had enhanced mandatory surveillance testing this week. In addition, Duke is working with Durham County Public Health and the management of the Solis to continue contact tracing and ensure that all precautions are being taken.  As part of that process, all residents of the Solis have been offered the opportunity to get a COVID-19 test at Duke Health’s downtown testing center,” the University said in a statement.

Several undergraduate and graduate students said they were not notified by campus officials about this cluster.

Schoenfeld said they decided not to let students know about it because it only impacted a small number of students off-campus.

“Based on the fact that these were students off-campus and they were not visiting campus, it was determined that they presented no risk to the broader university community,” Schoenfeld said. “So that communication was kept within the local area.”

Duke graduate student Rajeev Tiwari said he thinks the university should have notified all of the students about this cluster.

“They have been doing a pretty good job, but I think when it happened we should’ve been notified,” Tiwari said. “We all signed the Duke Community Compact, so we think it should’ve been shared with us.”

Duke University has been able to keep its COVID-19 case number low and their positivity percentage rate is below .1 percent.

“I think there are a number of factors that have led us to be in the position we’re in,” Schoenfeld. “We have a robust testing program and an equally robust contact tracing program which helps identify individuals very quickly.”

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in North Carolina, Schoenfeld said they are not letting their guard down.

He said they randomly test 15,000 people a week through pool testing in the Duke community and this is something they will continue to do.

“Our goal as an institution is to ensure to the point possible that we have the practices and systems in place to keep our community healthy,” Schoenfeld said.

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