Dean Klotman's Friday Message: Plans for Phased Return to Campus

May 1, 2020

I hope you were able to join me and School of Medicine leaders for the School’s COVID-19 Response Town Hall on Wednesday. A recording of the Town Hall is now available for viewing.

As we discussed in the Town Hall meeting, School of Medicine teams for lab-based research, clinical and office-based research, and our education programs are working to develop and implement data-driven plans to re-open in a thoughtful, phased approach. These plans are based on current disease activity, building density, and workforce needs, as well as the availability of adequate hand sanitizer, face masks, and cleaning materials. We have done an extensive amount of analysis and modeling to help inform our strategy. We are very grateful to faculty, trainees and staff who have given us input, and we will continue to solicit further feedback as efforts progress.

As you know, last week Governor Roy Cooper extended the “stay-at-home” order for North Carolina to at least May 8. Mayor Steve Schewel extended the “stay-at-home” order for Durham to at least May 15. In accordance with those orders, only School of Medicine staff and faculty who are approved to support on-site research, safety and security operations, facilities, student support services, and patient care should report to work on campus and in other locations.

The School of Medicine will re-open in phases beginning next week. This does not equate with business as usual before COVID-19 hit. Stringent safety guidelines including appropriate social distancing, use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing capabilities for COVID-19 will be required.

We will begin with an initial, limited phase-in period for the research mission, and in the next few days we plan to open the following core research facilities:

  • Proteomics & Metabolomics and Sequencing & Genomic Technologies Cores
  • Flow Cytometry Cores
  • Light Microscopy Core Facilities

These facilities have been selected based on a number of criteria. Some of our central reasoning is to begin to ‘open the pipeline’ to set the stage for the opening of research laboratories, as well as to better serve the currently active labs doing COVID-19-related research. We believe that this strategy will have the most impact and the least risk.

Approximately one week later, we are planning a pilot, controlled reopening of the research programs in buildings where these cores are located:

  • Chesterfield
  • Jones
  • LSRC (Levine Science Research Center)
  • MSRB 3 (Medical Sciences Research Building)
  • Nanaline Duke

There are two main reasons to reopen in this phased manner. First, because of constraints involving hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, Environmental Services, and Employee Health, we must focus on a smaller group of Research Drive facilities until we have more clarity on our supply side and ability to scale up services. Secondly, the plans we are developing are designed to allow us to capture key metrics before the next phase of the ramp-up. If things proceed as planned, we hope to open the next phase of buildings within several weeks.

To be clear, we have not set a return date to campus and other locations for other School of Medicine personnel and such notifications will be phased as we bring on more programs.

An important reminder that any employee reporting to work should continue to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to work and contact the Duke COVID hotline* (919-385-0429 option 1 for employees) if presenting with any symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose/sinus congestion, sore throat, muscle aches, and headaches) before returning to work.

I know there are other questions and there will continue to be more questions that arise. I am committed to communicating with you regularly and being transparent and honest with you. Additional Town Hall meetings will be held in the future to address questions pertinent to different groups in our School of Medicine community, so stay tuned.

Thank you to everyone for doing your part to control this pandemic and for you willingness to be flexible and persevere under this extraordinary challenge. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.