Unvaccinated students are required to participate in surveillance testing two times per week, while vaccinated students have to get tested at least once per week. The university tested more than 15,000 individuals are reported 364 cases — a positivity rate of 1.59 percent, according to its COVID-19 testing tracker dashboard. The university also reported a total of 610 cases in one month, mostly among students.
Of the reported cases, 304 undergraduates, 45 graduate students and 15 employees tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. All but eight of the affected individuals were vaccinated, and the vast majority of them are asymptomatic. A small number, however, were found to have minor cold- and flu-like symptoms and none have been hospitalized so far.
New guidelines following outbreak
Duke administrators announced new guidelines for the school year in an email to protect the “health, safety, and the ability of Duke to fulfill its educational mission.”
The new guidelines include the use of masks in all indoor and outdoor locations unless individuals are exercising alone, eating, drinking or not around other people.
Indoor group seating at campus dining facilities will also be temporarily suspended, and students and staff have been advised to eat outdoors as much as possible.
Due to absences from students in isolation, professors are also encouraged to teach their undergraduate classes remotely and student activities are limited.
University leaders said that the rise in cases among the vaccinated population is in line with the rapid surge of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. However, many called on administrators to reverse the “unreasonable and illogical” policies.
The petition stated that recent guidance goes against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for vaccinated individuals and demonstrates lack of trust in the developed vaccines. It also criticized the university’s dismissive attitude toward the severe physical and mental effects of their continued restrictions.
Recent data also suggested that vaccinated people are likely to transmit the virus, even if they are asymptomatic. COVID cases have been surging and children are also getting sick. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients, resulting in mobile morgues and postponement of elective procedures.
Dr. Zack Moore, North Carolina’s state epidemiologist said that fully vaccinated people can still get infected, and can still transmit the disease to others. “It is very important that they continue to take precautions, particularly masking when they’re indoors, but also if they’re going to be outdoors in places where they’re in crowds or in close proximity to others,” he said.
Besides, college students are still part of their communities as they frequent the same grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants as the rest of the population, and the risk of them infecting others is not worth taking.
College campuses across the country have struggled to find ways to balance safety and college experiences. This is particularly tricky due to the back-and-forth of restrictions, which are likely to frustrate students and parents alike. (Related: Tucker Carlson: University vaccine mandates forbid kids from getting an education.)
Christopher R. Marsicano, a founding director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College said that students want to experience what they were promised on TV and movies. However, after more than a year of going back and forth, they are exhausted.
Nobody wants another year of virtual learning; however, as Duke University has shown, there is a point where it’s better to keep the safety of the students and employees than be sorry about it later on. Until the virus is under control, there is a need to redefine what “normal” college experience is for students.
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