Amid Uncertain Times, Employees Keep Duke Going – Duke Today

As students complete their academic requirements through remote teaching and learning and many employees work remotely to control the spread of COVID-19, Duke continues to meet patient needs and support academic initiatives.

From ensuring the safety of community members to continuing essential campus operations, Duke employees are embracing the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19.

On Friday, the action on Duke’s campus included the transit team using state-of-the-art methods to disinfect buses, Dining welcoming shipments of food and employees taking steps to look after the well-being of those around them.

“We are grateful to all members of the Duke community for your cooperation, collaboration and flexibility as we seek to protect our public health, support our patient care and clinical staff at Duke Health, and continue our vital missions of education and research,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration and emergency coordinator.

Throughout last week, Duke leaders made a swift series of decisions about programs, policies and events from remote teaching and learning and encouraging employees to work remotely if possible to suspending all athletics activities indefinitely and closing landmark campus locations such as Sarah P. Duke Gardens until further notice.

Here’s a look at just a few areas of work being done as the Duke community responds to the coronavirus.

Keeping Campus MovingDispensers filled with hand sanitizer will now be found at the entrances of all of Duke's large buses. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

With all residential activities suspended for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester and remote teaching and learning beginning March 23 for undergraduates, Duke adjusted its transit schedule. Over the past week, crews have worked to clean 24 full-sized buses, eight small buses and six ADA-compliant transport vehicles.

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All buses in the Duke fleet underwent a two-step disinfectant process to ensure the safety of the Duke community members who ride them.

On Friday, after wiping down all interior surfaces with a hospital-grade disinfectant, staff members from Cenplex Building Services used an electrostatic sprayers to coat the bus interiors with a non-toxic chlorinated solution that will limit the spread of any containments on surfaces.

“After looking at different ways, we found that the best way for us to completely disinfect the buses was to use this technology,” said Carl DePinto, director of Duke Parking & Transportation. “This is newer technology and it just moved into the transportation space and we’re taking advantage of it.”

DePinto said the buses will receive this treatment at least twice a month. To further protect the Duke community, hand sanitizer dispensers are installed at the entrance of each full-sized Duke bus. Crews are also disinfecting parking pay stations in all garages and building lobbies twice a day.

Continuing to ServeDuke Dining's Leonard Bass brings items into the kitchen at East Campus Marketplace. Photo by Jonathan Black.

Before sunrise on Friday, staff members in the Marketplace on East Campus moved 36 total boxes of cereal, vinyl gloves, canola oil, strawberries, tomatoes and more. 

Leonard Bass, a material control clerk for Duke Dining Services, pushed a utility dolly with stacks of boxes from the shipping truck to refrigeration and dry storage. 

“I’ve been at Duke for 36 years and have never seen anything like this,” Bass said.

Duke Dining Services received the shipment of food and cooking supplies in preparation for serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to students starting on Monday, March 16. 

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At the Marketplace, breakfast will be served from 8 to 10 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday’s menus range from omelets to tofu tikka masala. Overall, a limited menu will be available with a meat and vegan entree, starch, vegetable, pasta and chicken and beef burgers.

All meals, utensils and condiments will be served in compostable to-go containers. There will be no dine-in service.

“I have chefs from other schools calling me and asking what we’re doing,” said Mark Turner, executive chef for Duke Dining. “I’m really proud to be part of an institution that people look to for guidance.”

See the hours for all Duke Dining locations here.

Coping with Stress

In order to help Duke community members work through the anxiety of coronavirus, the Duke Office of Global Affairs put together a guide featuring advice and insights from Duke’s mental health experts.

“Don’t jump to the worst-case scenario,” said Beth-Anne Blue, assistant director of Duke Personal Assistance Service. “This is true for human beings in general – when we lack accurate information, we go to the worst-case scenario. Be mindful of not letting your thoughts and feelings become ‘facts.’ Just because I feel like the world is going to end with this virus, doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. You need to take it day-by-day.”

Stepping Up for the Community

With coronavirus presenting a significant threat to older people and those with compromised immune systems, limiting the risk for vulnerable members of the community is of great importance.

It was that idea that led to Rebecca Hoeffler, communications coordinator for Sustainable Duke, pushing a cart through a Durham supermarket last week, filling it with groceries from her neighbor’s list.

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After talking to her 91-year old grandfather in New Jersey, who was concerned about the prospect of risking exposure by buying groceries, Hoeffler decided to help some of her neighbors who might be facing similar worries.

Hoeffler offered to shop for an elderly woman who lives next door to her in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood by doing her grocery shopping on Thursday. Afterward, Hoeffler posted a flyer near a cluster of mailboxes in her neighborhood, and took to Facebook, asking if any others on her street needed her to do that same.

“In these situations, when the community steps up, you really lessen the pressure on first responders and medical personnel,” said Hoeffler, whose grocery store trip was featured on a WNCN-17 newscast. “If you’re able to decrease, even by a little bit, the number of patients that have to seek care because they’ve been exposed to something, that takes some of the pressure off of the people doing the real hard work. So it’s good for the community as a whole.”

One of the items that was on Hoeffler’s neighbor’s list was flour. As a show of thanks for doing her shopping, Hoeffler’s neighbor provided her with a loaf of homemade bread made from the flour.

“It was so good,” Hoeffler said.

We ask for your continued help as we work to share the proactive and extensive work being done by the Duke community to prepare and respond to COVID-19. Please share your stories with us here or write us at


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