Dean Klotman's Friday Afternoon Message, August 14, 2020

Dean Mary E. KlotmanDear School of Medicine faculty, staff and students,

Watch the video of this message

Duke’s phase 4 “Return to Duke” in the COVID-19 pandemic response is in full swing as fall semester in the undergraduate and graduate schools began last week. The work behind this has been extraordinary! Of the 3,116 tests administered to Duke undergraduate and graduate students who have returned to campus since August 1, only four students have tested positive. This initial testing will be followed by an ambitious and data driven continuous surveillance testing plan generated by a team of campus and School of Medicine scientists, administrators and operational staff with exquisitely detailed planning.  Kyle Cavanaugh, Chloe Hallberg and many, many others deserve recognition for all that has been planned and implemented so seamlessly!

North Carolina’s Phase 2 of COVID-19 restrictions, which requires face masks to be worn in public and physical distancing, remains in effect until at least Friday, Sept. 11. While the state has recently seen a decline in numbers of new COVID-19 cases, there was an increase in the last day or so. The local Durham and Duke absolute and percent positive numbers continue on a downward trend. Duke has experienced a welcome decrease in hospitalizations compared to June and July as well. Our efforts as a community appear to be having a positive impact!

Included in returning students are more than 600 new PhD and health professions students beginning classes in the School of Medicine. So far, no student in the School of Medicine has tested positive for COVID-19. All of this is great news, but we must stay diligent and adhere to guidelines from the state and University!

These guidelines are part of the Duke Compact and are very familiar to those in the School of Medicine that have returned to our campus. All School of Medicine faculty, staff and students are required to sign and adhere to the Compact and must also complete symptom screening using either the SymMon or Health Check app before coming on campus. We all must be committed to maintaining a safe campus community for everyone.

There continues to be outstanding and inspiring work by so many of our faculty, staff and students…here are just a few examples:

  • Duke is a source of science-based truth for our community and beyond. This past week, a study by Duke faculty members Eric Westman and Martin Fischer received national attention. The study confirmed that face masks are effective in reducing droplet emissions and also identified the most effective masks … N95 masks without valves and surgical masks worn by front-line health care workers were most effective. Cotton face coverings also provided good coverage. Bandanas, neck fleeces and gaiters were problematic.
  • Thank you to our leaders and members of the working committees that have been established as part of the School of Medicine’s Turning a Moment into a Movement: Dismantling Racism initiative. These groups have begun the difficult, important and necessary work to make true and sustainable changes to address racism in our School and beyond. This is just the beginning but I am heartened by the work that is being done.
  • Duke experts Mike Datto and Tom Denny, along with so many great team members including Chris Polage, Mark Lee and Nancy Henshaw in the clinical labs and Tony Moody, Mattia Bonsignori, Raul Louzao, and Todd Demarco in the research labs, have guided and served the University and Health System on COVID-19 testing and surveillance strategies and provided timely results. They are also offering sound and science-based projections about the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine. Watch this great video interview with Provost Sally Kornbluth for more details!

The past five months have presented tremendous challenges for all of our employees and students. I encourage everyone to take care of themselves, exercise, get rest, and spend time with friends and loved ones. Next week, I’ll be taking some time away from work to spend with my family. My Friday message will be provided by special guests, so stay tuned.

Please visit the School of Medicine’s COVID-19 Information page to keep abreast of important news and information:


Dean Mary E. Klotman