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The message below is being sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Welcome (back) Duke students! We truly missed you this summer—campus was not the same without you, and we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2025 and transfer  students this week. We are so very excited to see you on campus as Duke reopens amid a much more typical year’s atmosphere. We at Duke have spent the summer doing everything we can to restore and resume the energy, connections, and interactions we’ve missed since March 2020. 

However, as you know, the Delta variant of COVID is complicating this plan. Emerging data from Duke and national experts show that the Delta variant is highly transmissible (regardless of whether or not you're vaccinated). We asked some of our student leaders to share some thoughts to keep in mind as we open the fall semester in the video below. 
Vimeo preview with a student wearing a mask walking on a leaf-covered path, with text reading, "Duke Fall 2021: We can do this!"
Let’s break this down:
  • Yes, most students are at lower risk, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. 
  • One reason we want to reduce infection is because we don’t know the long-term effects of COVID. You may not think it’s a big deal if you do get COVID, especially if you are vaccinated. However, no one knows the long-term effects of COVID. In short—you don’t want this.
  • We need your help in reducing spread for those who can’t be vaccinated—that includes some of your immunocompromised peers and staff and faculty with young children (who can’t be vaccinated). It is up to all of us to keep the most vulnerable among us safer.
We’re committed to creating a community in which Duke students can learn and thrive. Duke wants to support as many opportunities for you to connect with your faculty and mentors, to explore research and leadership opportunities, and just have the chance to be together and have fun.  We’re going to do everything we can to safely promote events and opportunities for connection this year, particularly outdoor events.

A few reminders of what you need to do:
  • For the time being, everyone needs to be masked while indoors, including in residential common areas. This is also a local Durham ordinance.
  • Eat outside as much as possible, or take your food to-go. We’re still seeing higher transmission rates indoors and over shared meals, so do what you can to mitigate any risk for yourself and others while eating.
  • Participate in surveillance testing weekly. Most breakthrough cases are asymptomatic or resemble a mild cold, so you might not know you’re positive without the surveillance test. Student Health will contact you within 48 hours if you’ve tested positive for COVID.

We also hope you’ll think with us about all that we’ve learned in the past 15 months.

We have learned a lot in the past year and recently we shared some thoughts with our faculty. We’ve also been talking with students about ways many of you have built intentional practices, gained new skills, and found ways to connect to your  passions and purpose in the pandemic. How do we go forward from here and build on that learning? There will be opportunities to connect and engage this fall, and we’re eager to be in conversation with your student groups and residential communities to think about how we can encourage your growth here at Duke.

Thank you for helping us kick off this academic year as safely as possible. We can’t wait to see you at the Blue Devil Return or on the plaza soon! 

Go Duke, 

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education