Update on COVID-19 Testing of Duke Students

Incoming students made Penn Pavilion their first stop on campus to get tested for COVID-19.
Incoming students made Penn Pavilion their first stop on campus to get tested for COVID-19.

Duke University has launched its comprehensive COVID-19 testing program by administering 3,116 tests to the first  undergraduate and graduate students who have returned to campus since Aug. 1. 

A total of four positive results have been reported. Any student who tests positive is required to isolate until getting medical clearance to access campus facilities.

Testing is continuing as students return to campus this week and through the end of the month.

COVID testing graphic All incoming students are required to get a COVID-19 test before they are permitted to enter university housing or attend class on campus. In addition to the mandatory testing, move-in protocols are significantly different this year, with students arriving in shifts over a week-long period, limited visitors and requirements for face coverings and other health and safety protocols.

After the initial move-in testing is complete, Duke will move to pooled testing for the university community in which multiple samples are evaluated at once. This program will be administered by the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and will enable the university to ultimately test several thousand pooled samples per week without impacting testing capacity for the wider population.

A group of Duke student-athletes who returned to campus last month have also been tested regularly, along with their coaches and staff. Duke previously reported that 26 student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19. All went through the required isolation and have since been cleared to return to their daily activities.

“This semester will only be successful if everyone acknowledges the risks we face as a community, and does everything in their power to limit the spread of this disease,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe, associate professor of medicine at Duke, who helped develop and administer the testing plan.

“What is being asked of us is simple but lifesaving. Through the Duke Compact and other channels of communication, the university has made clear everyone on campus must wear masks and distance where we can; be prepared to listen to contact tracing experts; and be a part of our rigorous testing platform that will roll out across campus. As we have seen across the country, we will only be as successful as the least compliant among us.”

Duke’s comprehensive COVID-19 prevention and containment regimen includes the following steps: 

  • The campus was de-densified by allowing only first-year students and sophomores to return to campus housing.
  • All students have been asked to isolate prior to arrival in Durham, and obtain COVID-19 tests, if possible, prior to arrival.
  • All undergraduate, graduate and professional students will be tested before their Duke Cards will be activated. Students will have to sequester in their room or off-campus residence until their results are confirmed.
  • The university has set aside more than 300 beds to be used for isolating students on-campus if necessary.
  • All students residing in the Durham area are required to complete a daily symptom-monitoring survey every day before coming to campus.
  • Faculty and staff who visit campus regularly will have to complete the symptom tracking survey every day.
  • Students who reside in Duke housing, who attend classes on campus or work on campus, and a number of faculty and staff, will be subject to regular pooled surveillance testing during the semester.
  • Contact tracers will conduct notifications of those who may have been in close contact with someone whose test comes back positive.

In addition, all students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear face coverings while on campus and observe other health-related guidelines for distancing and hygiene.

Further reporting on COVID-19 testing will be made available at http://coronavirus.duke.edu.