Duke Students in Lockdown Due to 'Rapidly Escalating' COVID Outbreak Following Fraternity Event

The university said that the cases “are almost all” stemming from unapproved fraternity events, and that the organizers “will be held accountable”

Duke University
Duke University. Photo: Lance King/Getty

Students at Duke University are required to stay in their dorms for the next week due to a "rapidly escalating" outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.

In the last week, more than 180 students tested positive for COVID-19 and another 200 students are now quarantining due to possible exposure. The university opted to go into a "stay-in-place" order in the hopes of cutting off further infections.

School officials say that the rise in cases "are almost all" linked to unapproved recruiting events held at fraternities off-campus.

"Those who are found responsible for organizing and hosting these events will be held accountable through the student conduct process," Michael Schoenfeld, the school's chief communications officer, said on Sunday.

Under the week-long stay-in-place order, classes will all transition online, most campus buildings will close and students will be limited in their activities, the school announced. Those living on-campus must stay in their dorms unless they are picking up food, accessing medical care, are getting tested for COVID-19 or are exercising in groups of three people or less. Students living off-campus are not allowed on campus unless they are getting tested, need medical care or are picking up food.

Duke students expressed their frustration with the fraternities for holding these events. The words "F--- FRATS" were found painted on a bridge near campus on Sunday morning, WTVD reported, and a petition is now circulating asking the school to "sue" the Interfraternity Council, the group overseeing the school's fraternities.

Duke had been doing well with keeping COVID-19 cases low throughout the pandemic, and was considered a model for other universities in terms of efficient testing and messaging. This outbreak "is by far the largest one-week number of positive tests and quarantines since the start of the pandemic," school officials said.

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"This week's increase in positive COVID-19 test results among Duke undergraduates is a stark reminder that this pandemic is still a very real danger to all of us," Schoenfeld said. "… While the overall positive test rate among the 6,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduate and professional students who are on or near the Duke campus this semester remains approximately 1%, we believe it is important to take decisive action to attack the spike in infections over the past week."

Duke Blue Devils
Duke's men's basketball team plays in the ACC tournament before having to withdraw due to a positive case. Jared C. Tilton/Getty

Last week, the Duke men's basketball team had to withdraw from a tournament due to a positive COVID-19 case, making them unable to make the March Madness Tournament for the first time since 1995.

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