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Dartmouth plans similar capacity for winter term

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2020 10:12:58 PM
Modified: 10/15/2020 10:12:52 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College plans to continue to operate at about half capacity on campus during its winter term because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Provost Joseph Helble said this week.

“We anticipate offering the opportunity for residential education to approximately half of our undergraduate student body, same as fall term and consistent with the integrated full-year operational plan President (Phil) Hanlon and I announced on June 29,” Helble said during an online “community conversation” on Wednesday, according to the Dartmouth website.

About 2,300 undergraduates are on campus this fall, college officials have previously said. Another 2,000 undergraduates and graduate students are living off campus in housing scattered around the Upper Valley.

The winter term is slated to start Jan. 7, a few days later than normal, to allow additional travel time and ensure sufficient staffing for COVID-19 testing as students arrive.

Calendar changes should be finalized by Oct. 28, when the school’s next community conversation is slated to be webcast.

As of Thursday, Dartmouth had active cases of COVID-19 in four students and one employee, according to the school’s dashboard. In addition, the college had nine members of its community in quarantine and 32 in isolation.

Students on and off campus can isolate in Dartmouth facilities set aside for the purpose, according to the college’s post.

Off-campus students can choose to stay in their residences as long as they have access to their own bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a way to have food delivered.

The Dartmouth Health Services checks in with students in isolation each day, and also offers mental health services.

The college has had a total of 13 positive cases since July 1. That total includes a cluster of three students living off campus that the college announced on Monday.

The new cases at Dartmouth came as rates of COVID-19 have increased across the state, Dr. Antonia Altomare, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock infectious disease specialist, said in Wednesday’s webcast conversation.

The state has recently seen an increase from 1% to 1.3% in its positivity rate, she said.

“That doesn’t seem a lot, but 0.3% more in a state our size actually means a lot,” she said.

There were 823 active cases of COVID-19 across New Hampshire as of Wednesday, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

There were 24 active cases of COVID-19 in Grafton County, as of Wednesday, with between cases in the Upper Valley towns of Lebanon, Hanover, Lyme, Enfield and Canaan.

There were six cases in Sullivan County, including in Newport, Sunapee and Unity. New Hampshire has had a total of 9,349 cases since the pandemic began.

On the Vermont side of the Upper Valley, there have been 16 new cases over the past two weeks in Windsor County and two in Orange County. In total, Vermont has had 1,903 positive cases.

At Dartmouth, COVID-19 precautions including regular testing, mask-wearing requirements, physical distancing and limits on group sizes will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Helble said.

No spring break

Vermont Technical College, which has campuses in Randolph and Williston, Vt., does not plan to have a traditional spring break, according to a statement VTC President Patricia Moulton issued on Tuesday.

Instead, to discourage travel outside of Vermont, Vermont Tech will offer two separate two-day, mid-week breaks during the spring semester.

“This is a public health decision and in the best interest of our communities, geographic and otherwise,” Moulton wrote. “This is not ideal nor the easiest nor preferred for any of us. It is, however, the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

The semester is slated to begin Feb. 1 with remote learning for the first two weeks to allow those returning from out of state to quarantine. Lab weeks will be scattered throughout the semester, which will end in May on a date to be determined.

Mask-wearing, social distancing and testing protocols will remain in place.

Vermont Tech, as of Tuesday, had had one positive case among its full-time residential students and two in part-time and non-residential students.

Advance Transit limits number of riders

Advance Transit is limiting the number of riders on its buses due to an increase in cases of COVID-19 in Grafton County, according to a Thursday news release.

The Wilder-based nonprofit’s 35-foot buses, which normally operate on the company’s red and blue routes, will now be limited to 17 riders.

Its 30-foot buses, which normally operate on the green, orange, brown and yellow routes, will now be limited to 13 riders.

Fourteen-foot Chevy buses, which serve riders with disabilities and normally can carry up to 16 passengers, will now be limited to eight riders.

Eighteen-foot Ford buses used for the Hanover shuttle will now be limited to 10 riders.

In spite of the new rules, family groups won’t be separated even if accommodating them means going over the new limits, the release said.

In addition to the new limits, AT also takes special care to clean and disinfect its buses daily, the release said. AT employees are screened for symptoms each day and required to wear masks. The nonprofit also has installed plastic barriers between rows.

AT asks that riders stay home when they are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19, wear masks while on the bus, sanitize their hands before riding, and distance themselves from other riders.

AT’s new rider limits come days after Vermont changed its travel map so the state now requires a quarantine for people traveling to Vermont from Grafton County for nonessential purposes.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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