COVID-19: Dartmouth cases well over 100 as students return; Haverhill rebuffs school mask mandate

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/4/2022 6:37:35 PM
Modified: 1/4/2022 6:36:56 PM

HANOVER — Active cases of COVID-19 at Dartmouth College are in the triple digits this week as undergraduates return for winter term, according to the college’s dashboard.

As of Monday, the school had 126 active cases, including 72 undergraduates, 33 employees and 21 graduate students.

There have been 191 new cases in the past week. More than 130 people are in isolation, including 72 undergraduates, 40 employees and 21 graduate students.

“The surge is related to the national situation and is not a surprise to us,” Diana Lawrence, a Dartmouth spokeswoman, said in a Tuesday email.

Last week, Dartmouth officials announced plans to move ahead with an in-person winter term as planned in spite of the more infectious omicron variant. Health officials are pointing at the variant as a primary driver of the current surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

The college is requiring all undergraduates to complete an in-person test within 48 hours of returning to campus for the term. At least for the first two weeks of the term, Dartmouth is limiting the size of in-person gatherings and restricting dining to grab-and-go. The college also requires that people wear masks indoors.

“Most cases have been mild because our community is so highly vaccinated and many people have already had the required boosters,” Lawrence said. The college’s surge in cases is prompting “no changes to our guidelines at this time.”

Nearly 98% of Dartmouth students and employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19, in accordance with the college’s vaccine mandate, which has some exemptions. The college is requiring that they also get booster shots by the end of the month.

Elsewhere in Hanover, the police department announced Tuesday that it was suspending its fingerprinting services until further notice due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in town.

Masks remain optional in Haverhill schools

HAVERHILL — The Haverhill Cooperative School Board reaffirmed its support for a masking strategy that recommends, but doesn’t require, masks in the town’s three schools at its meeting on Monday night.

In a 4-3 vote, the board rejected a push by school staff to require masks in Haverhill schools. Most schools in the Upper Valley require students to wear masks inside school buildings, in accordance with federal and state health recommendations. Prior to the Haverhill board’s Dec. 13 meeting, when the board made masks optional, the district used a targeted masking protocol, which required masks after positive cases of COVID-19 were identified in the town’s schools.

The vote, on a motion put forward by board member Sabrina Brown to require masks in the district’s schools for the next two months, came after an approximately two-hour discussion on the matter in the Haverhill Cooperative Middle School gymnasium. In proposing the measure, Brown noted that the winter typically brings a flu season.

“It was a doozie,” Board Chairman Richard Guy said of the meeting in a Tuesday email. The “audience asked me to call in the police at break time! By the time he arrived, it was calmed down.”

Board members John Rutherford, Alexandra Keeler, Michael Aremburg and Stephanie Chase opposed the measure, while Brown, Don Locascio and Guy supported it.

Opponents of the mask requirement said they wanted parents to be able to make the choice of whether or not their children wear masks in school.

The board scheduled a work session for Tuesday evening to seek any alternative, including a possibility Keeler suggested that would allow families to opt out of a mask requirement for their children.

“I’m trying to be positive, I really am,” Keeler said. “It’s not going to be perfect,” she said of any mask-related measure the board comes up with.

As of Monday, Haverhill schools had eight cases of COVID-19, including four at Woodsville Elementary School; three at Haverhill Cooperative Middle School; and one at Woodsville High School, according to the district’s COVID-19 information dashboard.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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