How Duke Is Avoiding Major COVID-19 Outbreaks

Oct 12, 2020

Credit Bill Snead / Duke University

Duke University has managed to avoid major COVID-19 outbreaks by enforcing standard precautions, robust testing and contact tracing.

Laura Andrews is the associate dean of students at Duke University and has been leading up the school's contact tracing team. She says while it's hard to pinpoint exactly when transmission occurs, they're noticing a trend of COVID cases stemming from dining halls.

“So you pull your mask down to eat, and then maybe you forget to put it back up,” Andrews says. “Or, you know, it's fun to eat close to your friends, within, maybe sometimes shorter distance than six feet.”

Her team brainstormed ways to prevent this. Now, they secure chairs with cables or bolt them down to keep diners apart.  And they put up signs to remind diners to put their mask back when they're done eating.

Andrews said trends show that eating indoors in break rooms or dining halls can be a risk for spreading the virus.

Duke has maybe the most robust testing program of any university in the state.

Andrews says some of their success is due to the university's “C-Teams” – students, faculty and staff who volunteer to patrol campus and remind people to keep their promise to the Duke compact. They hand out rewards like coupons to students who are doing a good job social distancing.

“We've gotten a lot of feedback that the C-Team –  you know the ‘C’ stands for Duke compact – our Duke Compact, but also it's for care and community, and compassion too.

“And COVID.”