Duke eliminates contact tracing, cites ‘volume and speed’ of Omicron variant

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Duke phased out contact tracing this semester due to its reduced usefulness amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh.

“[Contact tracing is] irrelevant due to the volume and rapidity of the incubation and recovery period of the Omicron variant,” Cavanaugh told faculty at the Jan. 20 Academic Council meeting.

As a result, some of the traditional public health practices, such as the length of isolation and contact tracing, were changed in December, Cavanaugh wrote in an email to The Chronicle. He added that due to the variant’s short incubation period, most individuals will already be symptomatic before they can be identified and notified as a possible contact.

Cavanaugh stressed that students should continue to “use the mask correctly,” monitor symptoms closely and get tested if they have any.

“With the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community right now, anyone who has spent time mask-free with people outside of their immediate household should assume they have been exposed,” Cavanaugh wrote.

Instead of a contact tracing program, Duke has focused on increasing testing availability, supporting those self-isolating and other preventative initiatives, such as rolling out Duke reminders, according to Cavanaugh.

Duke has reported more than 700 weekly cases of COVID-19 for four consecutive weeks. From January 24 to January 30, there were 735 positive cases, including 646 cases among students and 89 among faculty and staff. The positivity rate was 4.54%. As of Monday, January 30, there remained 509 active cases.

Duke required all students and employees to receive the COVID-19 booster by Feb. 15 or 28 days after becoming eligible under Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines.

With the appearance of the Omicron variant, some of the traditional public health practices such as the length of isolation and contact tracing were changed in December.


Milla Surjadi
| University news editor

Milla Surjadi is a sophomore at Trinity and the editor of college news for the 117th volume of The Chronicle.

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