Electoral Counting Act of 1887

The election of 1876 was close, with no clear winner and the country was a mess. Since either the House or the Senate objecting to a State’s slate of electors was enough to not count the electoral votes from a State, there was no clear way to resolve the election and an informal deal was cut between the Democratically controlled House of Representatives and the Republican controlled Senate. There was no “Commission” created, not to look into voter fraud as some Republican Senators said yesterday, but there was an unwritten deal cut to decide the outcome of the election.

The deal was that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would be President, if he would agree to remove Federal troops from the South who were overseeing Reconstruction. The Southern States “promised” to protect the Civil and voting rights of freed Slaves. This lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of generations of Black people and made the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution largely meaningless words on a piece of paper for nearly a Century, so far as Blacks were concerned.

To prevent such a mess again (basically one House of Congress being able to derail an election whose outcome they did not like), the Electoral Counting Act of 1887 was passed and is here. There were a variety of changes, but now it requires both the House AND the Senate to decide to overturn an election whose outcome they do not like. If you are speaking the language of “bothsides“, you are wrong factually and historically, and you are helping this country move toward not having a functioning democracy. And if you think “they are only doing this because they know it will not work”…..well, I hope you are correct but I don’t think so and we may find out in four years. Since 1887, we have not had:

  1. A President say for months that the only way he could lose was if his opponents cheated
  2. Republican controlled states delay the counting of mail in ballots allowing the President to be ahead on “election night” but likely to lose (he did)
  3. A President then say “stop counting, I am ahead!”
  4. Then once it was clear that he lost, file numerous lawsuits, that have all, save one, been rejected. Numerous ones dismissed on the merits.
  5. Continue to scream fraud, I lost, and have one party turn into what is now essentially a cult
  6. And in this context, have more than half of the Republicans in the House and one-fifth of those in the Senate say, “our elections were fine, but the President, elected on the same ballot, got cheated.”

And Republican Senators invoke the “commission” that was actually an unwritten “deal” in 1877 to end Reconstruction and abandon to the project of seeing to freed Slaves becoming full citizens for nearly a Century. When people tell you who they are, listen.

Increasing vaccination pace (a lot)

The covid19 vaccine rollout really has been a disaster, from top to bottom, by governments of all levels and private entities like health systems. We must increase the pace of vaccination by a lot, and ensure that we do not waste doses of vaccine. The North Carolina DHHS covid19 guidelines provide the State’s adaptation of the CDC guidance and are fine.

We need to move ahead with this general guideline, prioritizing how to get the maximum number of people vaccinated as fast as possible. The one addendum I would suggest is that each county should have a plan for what to do with doses that are at risk of being wasted after being thawed/hitting shelf life maximum. My suggestion would be to have places that aggregate people and say “if we have 100 doses about to waste, lets go there and vaccinate 100 people.” I suggest the Durham County jail for Durham County, and then other carceral congregate living facilities, and homeless shelters.

The language of illegitimacy

Only one President since I have been able to vote has not had the label of illegitimacy tagged to him–George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. (At least not that I recall). A quick stroll down memory lane.

Bill Clinton was so labelled because he only got 43% of the popular vote; GHW Bush 38% and Ross Perot 19%.

George W Bush was called by me I think, “the President select” given the Bush v Gore Supreme court case and he not only didn’t get more than half of the popular vote, he lost the popular vote to Al Gore. The popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant, but not politically so.

Barack Obama won a fairly convincing victory in 2008, but he was labelled as illegitimate by adherents to the Racist birther lie that he was not born in Hawaii, but rather born in Indonesia or Kenya or somewhere “other.”

Donald Trump also lost the popular vote by around 3 million votes. And some people said that Russia stole the election, or that Russian interference in the election tainted the result. Here is the report from the Republican controlled Senate Intelligence committee report, put out in August 2020. Here is one quote from the report:

(U) The Committee found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian
effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak
information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president. Moscow’s intent was
to harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the
Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the
U.S. democratic process.

The Senate report does conclude that there is no evidence of effect in the election in terms of hacking, altering vote counts and the like.

Joe Biden is said to be illegitimate by some Republicans because of a conspiracy between elected Democrats and Republicans, working in the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, who nevertheless failed to take control of the U.S. Senate, lost seats in the House of Representatives, and failed to get control of the State legislature in key states like North Carolina, so the Republicans can control redistricting in 2020. Also, several dozen cases brought by the Trump campaign failed to prove meaningful fraud anywhere. No evidence of such a conspiracy has been brought forward by President Trump in court.

Any President who does not get the most votes is going to have a whiff of illegitimacy, even though the popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant. And in a winner take all series of state races, Bill Clinton got 370 electoral votes with 43% of the vote, and even though he got the most votes, it is also true that more people voted for someone other than him. I agree that seems weird, but the electoral college is a weird, anti-democratic holdover from the 19th Century.

Given that so many Republicans bought into the Racist birther lie, and that this was how Donald Trump himself first fueled his jump from reality show TV host to Republican nominee for President, Republicans were always going to say the election was stolen, or that President Elect Biden was illegitimate. Mr. Trump certainly said it over and over during the campaign. For once he told the truth, he did exactly as he said he would.

The two American Ideas

Ideas are important because what we think affects how we act, and ideas are persistent–an idea can only be replaced by another. It has taken me around five decades to come to understand United States history primarily as a struggle between two profound and persistent ideas.

The first is “all men are created equal” announced to the World by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This was an aspiration the day he wrote it, in spite of the language he used with regard to being self-evident, which was primarily a literary device that signified that the Church was not needed to behold truth. The messy and inconsistent life of this Founding Father should not cause us to reject this most basic American idea–it can and should still serve as the North Star for the United States. These words are fine, we just need to live into them.

The second idea is the existence of a “hierarchy of human value that has most commonly been marked by Race across U.S. history” plainly codified just 11 years later in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution (emphasis added):

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

This second American idea is the anti-thesis of the first, however, they have coexisted across the fullness of history until today. The United States has never fully reckoned with this duplicity of ideas that are at the shared heart beat of the nation, and such a reckoning is my primary intellectual interest and passion today. I am a late arriver to this understanding of the World and it is important to say that clearly. As a White man, it was relatively easy for me to roll through life without being jarred as I am today by the juxtaposition of these two ideas that have been present from the beginning.

I understand reckoning to a process and not a set of facts or beliefs–everyone can only start from where they are! The process has three basic parts:

First, learning about the past and the present, realizing that incomplete and false history was not taught to you by accident. Second, learning how to talk about Race and other ways in which there are hierarchies of human value–this takes practice and the only way to get better is to learn and talk about it. Finally, as both individuals and most importantly as a community, we must decide what our new understanding means for the future. What will we do about what we learn?

I would be honored for you to join me in the journey.

Norms v Laws

Expecting to know the winner of the Presidential election before bedtime on November 3, 2020 is a norm–something that we have grown accustomed to over the past 50 years because most state-level elections are not close. Alabama will be a blow out for the Republican, California for the Democrat and so on. However, state laws govern elections for President because Article II, Section 1, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants states the authority to determine how a state’s electoral college votes will be assigned.

All 50 states have chosen an election as the means of determining which candidate gets its electoral votes, with 48 of the 50 states having winner take all assignment (Maine and Nebraska apportion based on districts). Each state has detailed laws governing elections, including how and when the election results are certified, which is the official determination of which candidate gets a State’s electoral college votes, and not CNN or FoxNews making a projection. The earliest certification date is November 5, 2020 (Delaware) and the latest is December 11, 2020 (California). In North Carolina, the date is November 24, 2020.

When an election is not close, we “know” who won on election night, even if the official and legal process of certifying the winner takes up to 5 weeks.

If there are numerous close states this election, we will not know who won on election night. This may be somewhat unusual or upsetting, but we have detailed laws to govern close elections, including recount provisions. If the election is super close, lets all take a deep breath and follow the law.

The note I shared with SSRI staff this morning

I write again after a sleepless night. The disposition of the Breonna Taylor case is plainly unjust, made all the worse by the legal underpinnings of the decision to charge no one with a crime for Ms. Taylor’s actual killing by the police in Louisville, KY. This is yet another instance of a hierarchy of human value being marked by Race in the United States. This week, our nation also passed 200,000 persons who have died from COVID19, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black, Hispanic and vulnerable elderly persons living in Nursing Homes. Much of this carnage could have and can be prevented. An election looms and our nation nears a constitutionally guaranteed ability to decide who we wish to lead us at the local, state and national levels. This is hopeful and empowering, but has largely been taken for granted. Last night, the President of the United States made his most direct comments to date that he will not abide by a peaceful transfer of power should he lose, and he is sowing unfounded seeds of doubt about election legitimacy, in an apparent attempt to keep power at all costs. This is not normal, is dangerous, and is far outside the mainstream and norms of the ideals of the United States.

It would be inappropriate for me to write as Director to you with a political advocacy statement, but I do not view the cross roads we approach as political in the typical partisan sense—the state of our Democracy, warts and all, is at stake. I typically have many policy goals that I hope to be furthered by any election, but my only goal in 2020 is that every person who is qualified to vote and who wants to do so, can, and that all the votes are counted in accordance with our laws and norms, and that we move ahead as a nation after the result is known.

This is a scary time for our nation, and for us here at SSRI and Duke University. I believe strongly in the idea of a Research University—that asking questions and providing evidence-based answers can make the world a better place. Each of you have a role in this important mission. If you need to pull back and rest, do so. If able, I ask you to summon all the courage you have, and to check on one another. If you can muster the energy and heart and have the means, do something to help someone else in need. Try and find a bit of beauty in the world and amplify and celebrate it. Say please, thank you and I love you. Educate yourself about the issues and vote.


Don Taylor

Director, Social Science Research Institute

Reckoning with White identity to get to a durable E Pluribus Unum

Note: I submitted this to Reason for publication but they were not interested, so I decided to post it.

Mike Gonzalez raises an important question in The Federalist about the future of the United States: is demography or culture the key to the future?

Of course they are related, but his premise is that “the left” is undermining the concept of E Pluribus Unum, (the motto of the United States, “from many, one”) by focusing on divisive identity politics. He says:

“Yes, after creating a caste order dividing society into identity silos based on race, ethnicity, sex—anything that conveys feelings of victimhood—the left is now shocked that some whites could, too, fall prey to identity politics. Nothing could better illustrate the left’s gaping blind spot about human nature.”

I agree with Gonzalez that determining what E Pluribus Unum means practically today is crucial to the thriving of the United States. However, I think he misses the mark on several key points about Race and identity politics that stand in the way of his stated goal of finding a 21st Century version of E Pluribus Unum.

First, all politics are identity politics, though I shared Mr. Gonzalez’s understanding and use of the term as applying only to Black or Latina/o or LGBTQ politicians or movements until the last few years, because I did not think of myself as a White man as having an identity. I just was. This is how White identity politics has been able to operate in the United States—as the quiet, assumed default and shaper of everything it wanted to shape since the American Revolution, because it was the unquestioned source of power, and all else was other. Gonzalez is correct about self-preservation being a key attribute of human nature, and White as the default ideal is being openly challenged, which portends a loss of power, and it is uncommon to cede power without a fight.

Second, Mr. Gonzalez identifies the rise of “affirmative action” with the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson as the beginning of “the left” dividing our country into the oppressed and the oppressors, setting the United States melting pot on a stove that is ready to boil over after 50 or 60 years of such left-driven Racial division. Let’s just say that Mr. Gonzalez and I read U.S. history a bit differently. In fact, “a Racial caste system” as he terms it is plainly evident in Article 1, section 2, clause 3 of the original U. S. Constitution, ratified in 1788.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

The refinement of the Racial caste system has been an ongoing project of the United States government since the 1790 Census and the work of figuring out where each person fits into a hierarchy of human value most commonly marked by Race is among the oldest of American ideas, long co-existing in compartmentalized fashion with equal justice under the law, freedom and equality. Mr. Gonzalez notes a paradox in his mind, that “the left” went off course with identity politics just as our nation was addressing the long standing mistreatment of Black’s throughout U.S. history. However, it was precisely the Century of White identity politics from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that rendered the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 little more than words on paper for freed Slaves, Blacks and those who could not pass as White that necessitated the new federal actions of the 1960s. These steps are viewed as revolutionary today, but they are best understood also the lurching forward in making good on a Century-long deferred promise the United States made to freed Slaves and their descendants after the Civil War. White identity politics allowed the power structure of the United States, to un-ironically fight World War II to protect freedom as we systematically denied freedom to many of our own citizens.

Third, Mr. Gonzalez invokes the period of great European migration to the United States as being the hey-day of E Pluribus Unum personified, with a slowly simmering melting pot instead of the boiling cauldron of grievance that “the left” brought about beginning in the 1960s, and stokes still today. His remembrance of the good ole days are as follows:

“The country’s leaders could have decided long ago — for instance, during the 1893-1925 Ellis Island period — to herd the teeming masses of Armenians, Greeks, Hungarians, Jews, Lebanese, Sicilians, Slavs, and Syrians under artificial identity categories. They could have labeled them “minorities” in need of compensatory justice, and constantly inculcated grievances in them.”

He goes onto describe an assimilation process that has built the fabric of improvement through immigration into our nation, which I agree is something to be celebrated, but in doing so he shows a tremendous blind spot about our shared history and how it affects us today.

“As changing demographics are challenging enough, however, America’s earlier leaders sensed that (my insert in parens: using identity politics as he says ’the left’ has done since the 1960s) would be a grave mistake. So they did the opposite, extending the enjoyment of equal treatment under the law along with the possibility of becoming American to all newcomers to the nation.”

The extension of equal treatment of the law to immigrants was and is the correct choice, however, the period 1893-1925 also saw active blocking of this same extension to freed Slaves and Blacks in spite of a bloody Civil War and an amended Constitution. Further, to the extent you cast “Black identity politics” as grievance based, in fairness there are at least a few grievances of note to be pressed by descendants of freed Slaves, for events taking place solely after the ratification of the 13th Amendment that used the word Slavery for the first time in the U.S. Constitution, when it was banned, namely the systematic project of seeing that the 14th and 15th Amendments were little more than words on a page in a practical sense for Blacks. The 1960s, whatever else they were, saw a Century-delayed concerted federal efforts to see that the descendants of freed Slaves would receive equal justice under the law that some European immigrants received while Blacks were being systematically oppressed and denied the rights that we said they had because they were citizens a Century before. White identity politics saw to this.

Finally, Mr. Gonzalez sees “the left” as fomenting disunion using Racial appeals in the election, and I see President Trump doing so with other Republicans participating or looking the other way to differing degrees. President Trump did not invent the appeal to Whites for their vote on the basis of fear of Blacks, and Racial equality generally. Such appeals to Whites have been a bi-partisan effort when viewed across the past 150 years, and were first systematized by the Democratic Party during Reconstruction, while the Republican Party then generally pushed for making freed slaves full citizens. The most important point is that since the Civil War, conservatism, whether practiced by the Democratic Party in 1890, or the Republican Party in 1990 or today, had as a cornerstone of its appeals, sometimes whispered at other times shouted, the danger of Whites losing power to Blacks and others. White as the quiet, unassailed default source of power was and is a lot of what was trying to be conserved.

What next? The original sin of the United States is not Slavery per se, but our inability to plainly name the paradox of the founding of the nation on two pillars: rousing language of equality against tyrannical European Kings and religious-based hegemony, and the forced Enslavement of Black Africans. We had a chance to name, own and collectively repent of this following the Civil War, in the sense of the Greek word for repentance used in the New Testament—metanoia—“to go the other way” if we had simply worked to live into what we said we were going to do in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. However, we made a choice and went still another way, that saw to the systemic denial of equal justice under the law to freed Slaves and their descendants after we gave our word, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Human beings have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize divergent ideas, which enables self-deception. I agree with Mr. Gonzalez that there are many White folks who are scared and angry for a variety of reasons, but at least some of this is a sense that they can no longer view their identity as White as the default, or ultimate holder of power of a variety of types. Indeed, E Pluribus Unum would seem to assume that no Racial identity has the upper hand, instead giving way to a generative process of refreshing norms and traditions, without White serving as the quiet default to be aspired to.

The way forward into a durable E Pluribus Unum will require us to commit to a future that is based on honesty about our past and future with respect to Race. We do not need another creed, but simply need to struggle to live into the aspiration stated as fact by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. This has always been anything but self-evident, but it is an aspiration worth pursuing, and in doing so we can tell the truth about ourselves, and walk away from our original sin of not talking plainly about the role of Race in our shared lives together. The primary benefit to many Whites may simply be our nation telling the truth, and no longer engaging in corporate self-deception. I think that is not only enough, but a lot. It is not too late to live into the audacious idea of the United States of America.

Mike Gonzalez. After Decades of Dividing America on Race, Left Insists the Right is Really to Blame. Reason, August 29, 2020. Census Measurement of Race throughout history https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/race/MREAD_1790_2010.html

Obamacare in peril–would you be affected?

In a word, yes, if you have health insurance.

Do you have an adult child who is age 26 or less on your health insurance? Do you get comfort from knowing that your employer sponsored health insurance does not have a lifetime maximum limit? Have you purchased subsidized coverage in a State exchange and took solace that when comparing premiums you knew there were not tricky “gotcha” limitations in coverage that made lower premiums fools gold? Do you have a family member covered by the Medicaid expansion undertaken in 38 of 50 states?

The ACA aka as Obamacare brought about all of these changes that many now take for granted. However, on November 10, 2020–the week after the election–the Trump Administration is going to argue that the entire ACA should be thrown out as outlined in their brief. You could be forgiven for thinking, “haven’t they been talking about that for a decade?” Yes they have, but the dog could actually catch the car now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed, even if she is not replaced prior to the election because a 4-4 tie would revert to the lower court that said “throw it all out.”

If President Trump is re-elected, then these provisions I noted and more are likely to be gone. If Joe Biden is elected, I suspect they will not and a compromise will be worked out.

The logic of the President’s case is as follows. In December, 2017, the Republican controlled House and Senate passed, and President Trump signed, a law that made the penalty for not purchasing health insurance under Obamacare equal to zero. If you choose not to buy health insurance since then, there is no penalty. That’s it. A lawsuit was brought saying that since the original ACA had a penalty for not purchasing insurance, now the entire law should be thrown out because the penalty has been set by the Republicans to equal zero. The folks who made the change to the law are now making the case to throw it all out because of that change. Yes, it is that dumb and ironic.

If you hear a Republican politician saying they support pre-existing condition limitation restrictions, keeping your adult children on your health insurance, no lifetime benefit maximums, health insurance coverage increases that are now taken for granted, ask them to write the bill they say would achieve those things while they are back in Washington confirming a Supreme Court Justice.

If you would like to do some research on your own, the Kaiser Family Foundation is the best source of non partisan, factual health policy information around.

The case against President Trump’s re-election

Several of my friends and family are lifelong Republicans who voted for President Trump in 2016 and are uneasy about doing so again. A few have asked “give me the case for a Conservative not voting for President Trump again” and then further, “the case for voting for Joe Biden instead of sitting out the election or voting for a third party candidate.”

A reasonable request. My quick summary. First, I think of the job of any President as having three parts: (1) picking people to serve in the Executive branch; (2) policy preferences; and (3) ceremonial duties, particularly in times of crisis.

My policy preferences are different from folks who voted for President Trump in 2016, though I have noticed some who share my key policy goal of developing basic health care coverage for everyone, and they express support for key elements of Obamacare. President Trump is arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court on November 10, 2020 for the entirety of Obamacare to be thrown out—pre-existing coverage protections, keeping your adult child on your health insurance until they are 26 and no lifetime coverage maximums—all of it. Here is the brief that President Trump’s Solicitor General will argue from the week after the election. I agree that Obamacare needs revision, but the best first step is not starting over, and Republicans have had a decade to come up with an alternative they could support, and they failed to do so even when they had complete power in Washington; 2016-2018, for example.  

The President has trouble putting the interests of the country and defending the Constitution of the United States (the oath he took) because he always puts his personal self-interest first. Everyone is self-interested, but the President seems to think the national interest is the same as whatever is in his best self-interest. The use of the White House for a Convention speech. Calling the Press, protected by the 1st Amendment the enemy of the State. Saying anything that is not helpful to him politically is fake news. Sending persons with no experience to run communications at Health and Human Services during a pandemic. Getting involved in scientific matters at the FDA like no other President has, reducing trust in public health and institutions like the CDC. I agree that candor is winsome in politicians, but much of what the President is open about is putting himself above the national interest and that is not what we need in a leader.

The President has trouble showing empathy, and this keeps him from doing the ceremonial part of his job well. Even if you like the President’s policies, he does not do a good job of carrying out the ceremonial aspects of his job, again because I think he has trouble seeing any difference between what is in his best interest and the best interest of the country. We only have one President at a time, and they must serve all Americans, not just those who voted for them. A great example of this was President George W. Bush meeting with the family members of soldiers killed in Iraq individually, and allowing those who needed or wanted to vent and blame the President personally to do so—including yelling and screaming to his face. This would be very hard to do, but he did it because it was best for these families and the country, even if it was bad or hard for him. President Bush understood that as America buried our War dead, defending his policies and seeing to his popularity for his re-election bid was not always the most important thing. Families that grieved needed to be allowed to do so in their own way, and so he took the direct criticism. The President is supposed to show up when terrible things happen and calm and soothe both individuals who have been affected as well as the entire nation. I don’t think President Trump is capable of being a selfless leader and this has hampered his COVID19 response efforts because all he could think about was how it affected his re-election chances.

The President commonly undermines key norms of law and order and democracy. If the President said one time “maybe I will have a third term” it might be a joke. However, he has consistently said this type of thing. During this election season, he has often said the only way he could lose would be in the Democrats cheated, and he hurls charges of massive voter fraud that have been debunked. The President seems most interested in keeping power, as he showed when he filed for re-election the day he was inaugurated on January 20, 2017—most Presidents wait to start the next campaign for at least a couple of years. The American transition of power in a peaceful manner is unique for its 25 decades of existence, but it depends upon people following of norms that put the good of the nation above the good of any one person. I worry that President Trump in incapable of making this distinction and his rhetoric sounds more like a dictator of a small nation rather than the most powerful person in the World.

Not voting or voting for a third party candidate is better than voting for President Trump, but there are only two people who could be President on January 20, 2021, and if you do not think President Trump should be, the clearest way to show that is voting for Joe Biden. This election is not about policy, but about restoring the idea that the President serves us, and not that the nation serves the President.

Respectfully submitted,


More on Duke’s testing program

Update: I confess to being shocked at how well Duke’s COVID19 mitigation strategy is going as evidenced by the very small number of positive tests. We had and have a robust testing program, but so do other Universities that have still had outbreaks, and that still could happen at Duke. Here are the latest results for the period September 5-11, 2020–1 contact-traced case among 87 faculty or staff who were potentially exposed, and 7 in precautionary quarantine; 0 of 416 faculty and staff positive in surveillance tested (surveyed below). For students, 3 cases identified from 100 with symptoms or possibly exposed, and all of them in precautionary quarantine, and 2 of 6,969.

Duke needs to lay out in detail exactly what we are doing to get such good results so that others can learn from our experience. Duke also needs to release information on how many people were asked to undergo survey testing, and how many had the test.

Duke has what seems to be among the most successful COVID19 testing programs, based on the small number of positive tests as shown on Duke’s testing dashboard (cases updated each Monday). As I noted last week, it is difficult to know what the surveillance or survey testing means, since students have reported to me being selected for such testing and not getting the test done. At a minimum, Duke should make clear how many persons were selected for surveillance testing and how many actually received a test.

Below is an email that a colleague received today (name redacted by me).

From: duke-notify@duke.edu <duke-notify@duke.edu>
Sent: Sunday, September 13, 2020 10:33 AM
To:  [Redacted by me]

Subject: Message from Duke United Testing

As part of helping to ensure your safety and the safety of our community, Duke is expanding its COVID-19 testing to include asymptomatic faculty and staff working on campus and off-campus students taking classes remotely.

You have been recommended for a surveillance test this week. While this test is not required, we encourage you get tested to help us identify and respond to the asymptomatic spread of the virus and limit the potential for local outbreaks.

Please visit any of the many locations on East or West campus to complete this test, which should take no more than 5 minutes. Testing will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You will only be contacted afterward if you test positive, at which point you will receive further medical guidance and support.

You can find more information about the process, testing locations and answers to frequently asked questions on the Duke United website.

At a minimum, Duke needs to provide information regarding how many persons have been “recommended” for testing, and how many actually receive the test. The rate of compliance with such a clearly voluntary testing program would be of interest, and any selection bias that may be present is important.

All my questions about what the data provided in the dashboard mean remain, and the continued lack of transparency by Universities not having an agreed upon set of data to track cases harms our ability to produce evidence that is useful and very much needed.