Common Parent & Family Quarantine/Isolation Questions and Concerns Addressed

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Parent and Family Programs

This has certainly been a challenging week on campus. With students in quarantine and isolation (Q/I) having recently reached an all-time high at Duke, we thought it would be valuable to share more information about campus testing and quarantine/isolation, answer common questions, and reinforce the supports your students will receive should they be required to quarantine or isolate.

We know that no one would choose to be in Q/I if it was not necessary, and we recognize how hard it is to have your loved one far away under these conditions. Even if your student has to be in their room without others during Q/I, they are never alone. There are so many people, offices, and structures in place here at Duke to make sure your student is supported and cared for.


Information and support provided to your student

When a student is placed into Q/I, whether in a Duke-managed facility or in their off-campus residence, they receive detailed messaging from the Isolation Care Team (ICT) full of helpful and important information for their Q/I period. This includes details about what to expect during Q/I as well as daily contacts for questions, mental health resources, and 24/7 emergency contact information. Students also receive an FAQ answering the most commonly asked questions. Students receive care from an entire support team, including a case manager, ICT staff members, and DukeReach support, in addition to their medical care team. If students live in Duke-provided housing, they will be moved to one of Duke’s Q/I facilities, which are managed by the ICT.

All students in Q/I are expected to adhere to the same standards, regardless of whether they live on- or off-campus, if they’ve had the vaccine, or if they take additional tests outside of Duke. Duke’s isolation and quarantine protocols are not negotiable.  These protocols are designed to keep the Duke and Durham communities safe while also providing necessary support to your student during this challenging time.  

Positive surveillance testing results & “testing out” of Q/I

Students cannot "test out" of isolation or quarantine. Dates for isolation and quarantine are determined by Duke Health Professionals. To ensure your student and the safety of our community, we cannot deviate from the dates provided. 

Duke's surveillance testing actually involves two separate PCR tests: an initial pooled test and a confirmatory individual test. These PCR tests are highly sensitive and accurate for detecting the presence of viral RNA; a false positive is exceptionally unlikely. False negative tests are actually more likely because the amount of virus that an infected person sheds can wax and wane. This is why the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Durham Public Health, and Duke's Infectious Disease experts have all established directives that a person cannot “test out” of isolation early even if they have a subsequent negative test. Again, we must remain firm in adhering to these directives.

Testing vaccinated students

While the vaccine has been shown to reduce/prevent symptoms and prevent the risk of serious illness, it has not been proven to prevent infection and transmission. Therefore, we must continue to do testing on students who have been vaccinated, both as part of our regular asymptomatic surveillance testing and testing during quarantine. 

Release from Q/I

Students are released from Q/I under the careful advisement of our case management medical team, following the directives of senior Duke medical leadership. Dates for isolation and quarantine are determined by Duke Health Professionals. To ensure your safety and the safety of our community, we cannot deviate from the dates provided. We ask for your support respecting the dates determined by Duke Health Professionals.


Read more about Duke's processes for surveillance tests, Q/I, and more on the Keep Learning FAQ. We also encourage families to look through the Isolation Care Team's FAQ.

Though we understand that this information may not reduce your concern for a student in isolation or quarantine, we hope that it provides some measure of clarity to the procedures Duke abides by in order to keep your student as healthy as possible and to protect the safety of the community.  

We encourage you to let your student take the lead during this time. We know this may be challenging, as it has been your task in their life so far to be their primary caretaker. Students are receiving daily communications from the campus care network, including their case manager, checking in on them. Ask your student what strategies they are using to get through this time, what they have learned about themselves during Q/I, and who on campus (friends, faculty, staff) they arere leaning on for support. Together, we will get through this.