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COVID-19 Cases Rising At Triangle Area Colleges; Duke Implements New Guidelines

Large universities in the Triangle are reporting an influx of COVID-19 cases as August closes out.

In response to ballooning numbers, Duke University is among those implementing new COVID-19 guidelines.

Duke said in an email to its campus community that 364 of its students and employees tested positive last week alone. Only eight were unvaccinated. Most cases were asymptomatic. Duke has been conducting widespread surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals regardless of their vaccination status.

Additionally, Duke announced masking will now be required outdoors, as well as indoors, and faculty can teach remotely for the next two weeks. Unvaccinated Duke employees must get vaccinated by October or lose their jobs.

Tuesday morning, Duke announced that masks would also be required for all guests over the age of 5 at all Blue Devils’ athletic events, indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required at all times except when folks are actively eating or drinking. Guidelines are subject to change throughout the fall sports season. Duke’s football team will have its first home game on Friday, Sept. 10 against North Carolina A&T.

Last week, UNC-Chapel Hill announced that masks must be worn at all times for its indoor athletic events. Masks are not required for outdoor sporting events. Vaccinations are “strongly encouraged” but not required to attend Tar Heels’ games, the school said. At football games, complimentary masks will be available at stadium entrance points. UNC's home opener for football is Saturday, Sept. 11, vs. Georgia State.

In the latest update of its campus dashboard Monday afternoon, UNC-Chapel Hill reported nearly 450 cases among students and employees for the month of August. N.C. State University has reported 338 positive cases this month.

In the world of public K-12 schools, school boards in the state will have to vote to continue face masks monthly if they want to keep their mask mandates in place. That's part of an education bill that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports the bill includes a number of pandemic-related education provisions, like graduation requirements and how remote learning can be used.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.
Mitchell Northam