Duke University loosens campus COVID-19 restrictions after ‘significant’ drop in cases

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Duke University is loosening some campus COVID-19 restrictions after reporting a drop in cases on campus this week. Students and employees will no longer need to wear face masks outdoors, except at large outdoor events such as home football games.

Duke reported 28 cases among students and nine cases among faculty and staff over the past week, according to the university’s coronavirus case tracker.

The downward trend comes after two weeks of tighter COVID-19 restrictions at Duke, including requiring masks indoors and outdoors and suspending indoor dining. Professors were also allowed to teach their undergraduate classes remotely for two weeks because so many students were absent due to isolation and quarantine.

The university set the new rules after a surge of hundreds of cases among vaccinated students and said it would review them in two weeks.

Duke professors were advised to teach undergraduate courses in-person Monday, except in cases where instructors were granted specific exemptions.

The indoor masking requirements and indoor dining restrictions will remain in effect for now, as officials monitor testing data and public health guidance.

This is the first time since the fall semester started that Duke reported less than 100 cases among students and employees in one week and shows a “significant decline of positive tests,” according to a recent university announcement.

Duke’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 37 positive cases were reported last week out of more than 22,300 tests administered, with a positivity rate of 0.17%. There are currently 50 active cases on campus, but there is no information about the number of individuals in isolation and/or quarantine.

Duke University students Annie Do, middle, a junior, and Cynthia Wang, right, a senior, study on Duke’s west campus in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Duke University students Annie Do, middle, a junior, and Cynthia Wang, right, a senior, study on Duke’s west campus in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

The total number of weekly cases dropped to 126, a 65% decrease, after the first week and continued on that downward trend the next week.

“Since the beginning, we’ve talked about Duke United and about being in this together, and I could not be prouder of the way our students, faculty and staff have responded to help curtail the spread of COVID on campus,” Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh said in a statement.

“We are testing 24,000 people a week, so we have a good sense of what is happening on campus,” Cavanaugh said. “And we are confident that the efforts of our community are driving these successful results.”

Duke students were required to be vaccinated this fall, and 98% were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 30.

Unvaccinated students have to get tested twice weekly, and vaccinated students have to get tested at least once per week.

More Duke employees have gotten vaccinated or shown proof of vaccination after Duke said they’d be fired if they weren’t. As of Monday, 93% are fully vaccinated and 94% have received at least the first dose, according to Duke.