Dartmouth College to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2021 10:30:44 PM
Modified: 6/23/2021 10:30:57 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College will require employees working on college properties to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1 and will relax many of its COVID-19 precautions beginning Thursday, according to college officials.

Employees can request religious and medical exemptions to the vaccination rule, but those who remain unvaccinated will be subject to certain requirements such as wearing personal protective equipment, maintaining physical distancing and being tested more frequently, according to the college’s policy.

“We understand that there are people who have reservations about receiving a vaccine,” Scot Bemis, the college’s chief human resources officer, wrote in a Wednesday message to faculty and staff. “We appreciate their hesitation; however, public health experts agree that universal vaccination is essential in maintaining the health of our workforce and it is the most important tool we have for reducing transmission of the virus.”

Dartmouth has almost 4,000 employees, making it one of the largest hirers in the Upper Valley.

Also on Wednesday, Provost Joseph Helble announced during a webcast “community conversation” that Dartmouth would be rolling back many COVID-19 restrictions in light of the fact that 83% of students who will be on campus this summer have been vaccinated. Students have a deadline of June 30 to submit documentation of their vaccination, he said.

People who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks on campus, Helble said. Physical distancing requirements also have been lifted, bringing most spaces on campus up to full capacity. Limits on the size of gatherings have been lifted, as have eating and dining restrictions. The Zimmerman Fitness Center is reopening for students this week and for faculty and staff by the end of the summer.

“This is a moment of hope for us all,” said Helble, who was participating in his last such forum before leaving Dartmouth to become president of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

Some restrictions remain, he said. Visitors to campus still are required to register until Aug. 1, and overnight visitors are not permitted. Upon arrival to campus, students who are not vaccinated are required to undergo both antigen and PCR COVID-19 testing. Unvaccinated students also are required to quarantine.

The college announced in April that all students will be required to be vaccinated ahead of fall term, which officials have said they expect will be a normal in-person learning experience. Officials also had said last month that they planned to require vaccines for employees. Some other colleges in the region, including Colby-Sawyer College in New London, have also announced employee vaccination requirements.

Dartmouth’s employee vaccination announcement comes after a federal judge in Texas last week issued a decision in support of employers’ ability to institute such requirements by dismissing a lawsuit brought by Houston Methodist Hospital employees who had opposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Though some hospitals and health systems around the country have instituted the requirements for workers, Lebanon-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock is not among them. D-H officials continue to evaluate the issue, D-H spokeswoman Cassidy Smith said Wednesday.

In his email, Bemis said the vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, including those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are “safe, free, accessible, and highly effective.”

As of Wednesday, 78% of the Dartmouth community working or living on or near campus has been vaccinated. Of the total Dartmouth community, more than 60% have been vaccinated so far, according to the college’s dashboard.

The college will continue to provide employees with paid time of up to two hours to get vaccinated, as well as a day of recovery following each dose should they need it, Bemis said.

To comply with the policy, workers are required to provide the college with documentation showing that they have been fully vaccinated or obtain an exemption by Sept. 1. For medical exemptions, which are available to those with certain disabilities and qualifying medical conditions, as well as pregnancy and lactation, workers are required to submit documentation from a health care provider. For religious exemptions, employees must submit a letter explaining their request.

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

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