Duke University investigates after up to 50 students attend off-campus party with no masks

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke University said it will test students who attended an off-campus, unmasked party.

Some of them may even be punished.

An investigation is underway at Duke to find students who went to an off-campus party during a pandemic.

School leaders said as many as 50 people were gathered wearing no masks.

"I think it's pretty irresponsible," said Alejandro Rodriguez a freshman at Duke.

Rodriguez and fellow student Hailey Williams told ABC11 that they are disappointed.

Both are student-athletes who are tested daily for COVID-19, but they worry that the party will put the campus and the broader community at risk.

"I think we need to do a better job of mask mandates, as a collective student body we need to look out for one another and understand that we're very blessed and lucky to be on campus right now," Rodriguez said.

Duke University made national headlines for managing to keep its campus open to students last semester through frequent COVID 19 testing and surveillance strategies, while others closed because of outbreaks.

Duke officials have not said where the off-campus party took place, but ABC11 has learned that the party took place in the 4800 block of Hillsborough Road.

The event was in clear violation of the agreement students must sign stating they'll follow the university's safety guidelines.

The University released a statement on the matter:

"Please be advised that we have been notified by the Durham Police Department about a large gathering in violation of Duke University, local, and state COVID-19 policies and expectations held last night, February 19th, at an off-campus location. The police report indicated that at least 50 unmasked students were in attendance and, consequently, we will immediately begin contact tracing and surveillance testing attendees.

As a reminder, hosting large-scale social events-on or off-campus-is considered a flagrant violation of university COVID-19 expectations. Hosts, and in most instances, attendees, of events are referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for further resolution. Other students found responsible this academic year for flagrant violations such as hosting large-scale social events and parties have lost campus privileges and/or been issued a two-semester suspension from the university.

Please avoid parties and other large-scale social events and remain committed to Duke University's COVID-19 policies and expectations."

Williams told ABC11 that she hopes the university will go after the organizers and those who promoted the party first.

"I don't want to be like, yeah, we should punish them all, because I'm not like that type of person," she said.
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