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Colleges without vaccine mandates seeing less COVID-19 transmission

UPDATE: Michigan Tech confirms that it has never reached levels seen at Duke the past week. It records over 14-day intervals, and has always been under 100 cases during that period, equating to just under 700 per 100,000 on a weekly timeframe.

UNC-Chapel Hill is seeing a milder COVID outbreak than nearby Duke University and Wake Forest, even though it is the only area school to not require vaccines. North Carolina’s famed research triangle has three colleges located within minutes of each other. Durham to Chapel Hill is a shorter drive than Houghton to Calumet, making it ideal for comparison’s sake.

Blue Devils returned to campus earlier this month having dutifully gotten their shots. The student body has a 98% vaccination rate, with faculty and staff at 92%. Duke has become one of the most infected places in the country. In just the first week of class, 349 students tested positive for COVID between the undergraduate and graduate levels. Duke’s enrollment is barely above 15,000 overall, which speaks to the shocking nature of the outbreak. Estimates suggest around one-third of Americans have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. Duke saw over two percent of its population contract COVID in the past seven days.

Adjusting the case levels for a 100,000 population as is currently being done by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, Duke’s campus has over 2,100 infections. Houghton County, which was classified as high in the last report according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, is at 100 cases per 100,000.

The comparisons get worse for Duke, though. UNC is not requiring masks and only registered 215 cases among staff and students. Chapel Hill has an enrollment of over 29,000 pupils, putting its rate at less than a third of its nearby counterpart. Keweenaw Report has reached out to Michigan Tech, which also does not require vaccines, to see what numbers look like here. Tech would need to have 165 new cases in a seven day period to match the outbreak being experienced at Duke, adjusting for the size of the student body. Keweenaw Report has also asked Tech if they have ever approached that number since the beginning of the pandemic.

Duke is running out of quarantine facilities with over three months still to go in its fall semester, and has implemented a rash of new restrictions for students on its campus. It begs the question, if those are the returns you get from universal vaccination, should it be done at all? It marks the second high profile outbreak of COVID-19 in a highly vaccinated population in under two months. In Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard, of nearly 470 people who contracted the virus over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the CDC says 75 percent met the definition for fully vaccinated.

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