Additional Information on Transition to Orange; Help Slow the Spread

Feb. 12, 2021

Dear Durham colleagues,

Like many schools across the country, and our own experience in the fall, we are seeing an increase in asymptomatic positive COVID cases as the semester gets underway. The rate of increase is higher than we have seen before and is NOT linked to so-called “super spreader” events, but rather smaller more informal gatherings off campus. Our students, like many of us, are experiencing COVID fatigue. We transitioned to orange as a community so we can Slow the Spread much more quickly than our normal protocols, and with less risk of requiring severe restrictions on our community or reverting to red as we did last spring.  

The orange operation mode means that in addition to our standard COVID protocols, we are pivoting toward greater restrictions around in-person contact with the purpose of slowing the spread of the virus and reducing our baseline infection level. Details of our current orange operation restrictions can be found here . This is not a permanent move for the semester. If the whole community does its part, we hope the infection rate decreases next week and we can return to yellow the following week. We want to get through two complete testing cycles of students before we consider that transition.

In general, we are asking our academic faculty and staff to transition instruction to online or request an exception through your dean’s office and further de-densify offices, while maintaining full operations. Because this is a temporary shift to online instruction, we are encouraging students to stay here, remain in the testing program, temporarily further reduce their contact with others (e.g. maximum allowable informal gatherings reduced from 25 to 6) and continue to follow all CDC guidelines. As you are communicating with students, please encourage them to stay here in the testing bubble. 

Our students want to be on campus and want to have in-person instruction. We ask you to do your best to accommodate students’ needs during this temporary period and support them as they cope with the increased restrictions of the orange operating mode. If you are in need of academic support, please reach out to your dean or to us in the provost’s office. We want to help you, too.  

We know this is difficult and that we are all weary of these ongoing restrictions and protocols, but we can get through this together. Thank you for your vigilance, agility and commitment to the education and support of our students. Please stay in the testing program and take care of yourself.

Wayne Jones