Dartmouth to resume as planned

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/29/2021 7:54:29 PM
Modified: 12/29/2021 7:54:13 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College will begin winter term in person amid uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant, college officials said Wednesday.

The decision to start the term in person next week as planned follows an announcement earlier this month that the college would require students and employees to get COVID-19 booster shots by Jan. 31. On-campus vaccination clinics are planned for mid-January.

In a Wednesday message to the Dartmouth community, interim Provost David Kotz and Executive Vice President Rick Mills said the decision was made with the understanding that masks and vaccination can reduce transmission in classrooms, and in order to promote “positive community mental health.”

Nationally, a surge primarily caused by the highly infectious omicron has resulted in an average of 265,000 daily new COVID-19 cases, the highest on record, according to the Associated Press. Case rates, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 have been elevated in the Twin States and across New England in recent weeks. Twin State health officials have said they expect cases to increase further in coming weeks as a result of holiday gatherings and omicron.

In response to the rapid spread of omicron, evolving public health guidance and operational challenges on campus, Kotz and Mills warned that some or all classes may transition to an online format at some point during the term. Such decisions will be informed by campus positivity and transmission  rates; the number of community members who have received booster shots; staffing constraints; hospitalization rates and capacity; government mandates and guidance; and isolation capacity.

Students are required to obtain a PCR test for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their arrival on campus. Subsequently, vaccinated students and employees will be required to test weekly, while those who are unvaccinated will be required to test twice a week.

At least for the first two weeks of January, indoor social gatherings will be limited in size and dining will be grab-and-go. The college’s mask policy will remain in effect, requiring that people wear masks indoors; while riding in vehicles with others; while they are sick; or after they have been identified as a close contact of a positive case. Kotz and Mills also encouraged community members to use medical-grade masks, such as surgical, KN95 or N95 masks, rather than cloth masks.

Because the college expects a higher number of positive cases than it has had in previous terms, students who test positive will isolate in place in their residence, rather than relocating to a special isolation area. They may leave their rooms to collect meals as needed.

Meanwhile, in addition to in-person classes, the college also will allow laboratory research and small-group club meetings to continue meeting in person. The library and gym will remain open, and arts and athletics will continue as planned.

Earlier this week, the college postponed men’s and women’s basketball games due to cases of COVID-19. Several other colleges, including others in the Ivy League, have delayed the start of in-person classes this winter due to spikes in cases of COVID-19.

FEMA team to come to APD

LEBANON — Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital is among three New Hampshire hospitals set to get a FEMA team to administer monoclonal antibodies in the New Year, according to a news release from Gov. Chris Sununu.

Primary care providers can refer patients who test positive for COVID-19 and are at risk of hospitalization for the treatment, which is aimed at reducing the rate of hospitalization.

Cottage Hospital in Woodsville is the only other hospital on the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley that is administering the treatment, according to a map from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Chelsea sees uptick

CHELSEA — Chelsea Public School had seven cases of COVID-19 last week, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

That is more than half of the 12 cases the school has had this year and represents about 7% of the preK-8 school’s student body.

The White River School in White River Junction and Woodstock Union High School and Middle School each reported two cases last week.

Several other schools on the Vermont side of the Upper Valley reported single cases, including Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River; Bradford Elementary School; Hartford High School; Riverside Middle School in Springfield; and Springfield High School.

Vt. offers rapid tests to families

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Vermont this week is offering one free COVID-19 rapid test kit per child in grades K-12, according to a news release.

State officials are encouraging families to use the tests before school resumes next week, according to the release from Gov. Phil Scott. Students should take the two tests at least 24 hours apart, starting two days before school begins, the release said.

Families with children in grades K-12 will be able to pick up the kits at one of 51 Agency of Transportation sites around the state on Thursday or Friday. The pick-up sites will be open both days from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. The name and school of the students are required to pick up the tests.

Registration is now open at healthvermont.gov/student-testing.

The state also is encouraging families to get their children, ages 5 and older, vaccinated against COVID-19.

More information about vaccines for children is online at: healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/vaccines-children.

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

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