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COVID-19: Dartmouth tightens restrictions as outbreak grows

Staff and Wire Reports
Published: 2/25/2021 9:58:19 PM
Modified: 2/25/2021 9:58:17 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College has shuttered indoor gathering spaces and shifted in-person classes to a remote format at least until Tuesday in light of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to the college provost.

As of Thursday, the college had 37 active cases of COVID-19 in students, with 112 students and employees in either quarantine or isolation, according to the school’s dashboard. Those numbers could rise, Dartmouth Provost Joseph Helble said in an email Thursday to the Dartmouth community. This is up from a previous high of 25 active cases in mid-January, college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said.

Laboratories and other project spaces will remain open under current COVID-19 protocols and officials will use test results from samples collected on Monday to help them determine whether to reopen other indoor spaces and resume in-person classes next week, Helble said.

“We understand that everyone is tired of waiting out the pandemic and curtailing social activities — please take advantage of the milder weather to leave your room and change your surroundings,” Helble said. “It is important to find ways to care for yourself every day.”

College officials had already moved on Wednesday to restrict dining options to only grab-and-go in light of the rising case numbers. Students are still allowed to participate in outdoor recreational activities such as skating, skiing and snowshoeing, but transportation to outdoor activities, such as the Dartmouth Skiway, has been suspended, Helble said.

Contact tracing was still underway to determine the source of the infections, Hanover Health Officer Michael Hinsley said in a phone interview. But he said he thought the case spike was driven by the same factors driving increasing numbers at other colleges and universities in the Twin States, including the University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont and Plymouth State University.

Plymouth State, which like Dartmouth is in Grafton County, had 232 active cases as of Thursday; UNH had 240 active cases on Wednesday; and UVM had 64 new cases in the week that ended Sunday.

“People are tired of this situation,” Hinsley said in a phone interview.

Hinsley said Dartmouth’s recent cases do not appear to be tied to the college’s winter carnival earlier this month, or to a sporting event or big party. Instead, he said it comes from people letting their guard down.

Hinsley said he has confidence in the college’s response and noted that the school has plenty of room in empty residence halls set aside to separate those who test positive or who have been exposed to a positive case from others.

Just over 7% of the college’s on-campus quarantine and isolation space was taken up on Thursday, leaving nearly 93% still available.

“I do not believe this poses a threat of virus spread to the greater community,” Hinsley said.

To curb transmission, Helble encouraged Dartmouth community members to maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others; avoid gatherings; refrain from using public transit; participate in regular COVID-19 surveillance testing; and wear a face covering.

Hundreds get vaccines at pop-up clinic

NORTH HAVERHILL — In a partnership between Cottage Hospital and Woodsville Emergency Services, 450 Granite Staters age 65 and older received COVID-19 vaccines at a Wednesday pop-up clinic.

The clinic for people who pre-registered for the event was held at Horse Meadow Senior Center in North Haverhill in collaboration with the North Country Health Consortium.

Those who were vaccinated will return for their second doses in four weeks, said Cottage Hospital spokeswoman Dhaniele Duffy in an email.

Extra vaccine moves up shots for 65 and up in Vt.

MONTPELIER — Vermonters aged 65 and older can now make appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at Walgreens pharmacies, the Vermont Department of Health said Thursday.

Walgreens received an unexpected 4,300 first doses of the vaccine for Vermonters through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the state said.

So starting Thursday, Vermonters aged 65 and over can sign up to be vaccinated. People can sign up online or call Walgreens.

The Health Department announced earlier this week that Vermonters aged 65 and over will be able to begin making vaccination appointments on March 1.

The Walgreens appointments come in addition to the appointments that newly eligible Vermonters can begin to make on Monday.

Program to help NH renters pay bills

CONCORD — A new program will help eligible residents in New Hampshire who can’t pay their rent and utilities because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.

The New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be administered by the New Hampshire Housing Authority, in coordination with the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. It is federally funded.

To be eligible for assistance, at least one person in the household must qualify for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced, had significant costs, or had other financial hardship due to COVID-19. The household must also be at risk for homelessness and meet certain income requirements. Landlords may apply for assistance on behalf of their tenant, with the tenant’s permission.

Assistance is available retroactive to April 1, 2020, through the date of application. Households may receive help for a total of 12 months.

Details about the program are available at www.NHHFA.org/emergency-rental-assistance. Application information will be available by March 15.

NH vaccine update

As of Thursday, New Hampshire has administered 197,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 91,000 second doses — amounting to 7% of the state’s population that’s fully vaccinated.

State officials were hopeful that the promise of a third vaccine, the single-dose one from Johnson & Johnson undergoing federal review, would be available as soon as next week.

The state is making preparations for Phase 2a of its vaccine plan; it is currently vaccinating people in Phase 1B, which includes people with disabilities and medical vulnerabilities and their caregivers.

The group Able New Hampshire, a disability rights group, said people in this population “have had to take extra steps to prove their eligibility in the requirement of verification by a physician.” The eligibility guidance and its application “have been unclear and applied inconsistently by health care providers, 211 call staff and service provider agency staff,” delaying vaccine registration, the group said.

Gov. Chris Sununu said at his weekly news conference that he is aware of the concerns, adding “We do have great communication and contact with these families” and will reach out to them to make sure they are included.

“There will always be a dispute if someone is in the gray area of whether they are medically vulnerable or not,” Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said. “That could be part of the complaints that we’re getting,” with a patient or family feeling they are medically vulnerable, and the physician doesn’t agree, she said.

Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of Able New Hampshire, called that suggestion “hog wash.” She said at least 20 families have reached out to the governor’s office.

Silent film festival relocates to NH

A silent film festival in Kansas that’s been canceled this year has been resurrected in New Hampshire.

The “Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire” is being held Friday through Sunday at the Town Hall Theater in Wilton. It’s being made possible by a fan and music accompanist for the festival, Jeff Rapsis of New Hampshire. A virtual festival will be held in Topeka, Kan.

Rapsis said he got permission from 1,500 miles away to hold the festival. The films will feature actors with ties to Kansas, such as Buster Keaton, Louise Brooks, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Claire Windsor.

Rapsis says this is the first time in 20 years he’s not celebrating it there. He said that during intermissions, hot pickles imported from Porubsky’s Deli in Topeka will be served.

Twin State numbers

On Thursday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 66 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to almost 14,850.

There were 28 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 11 in intensive care.

Two more deaths were reported, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 203.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 113.29 new cases per day on Feb. 10 to 110.29 new cases per day on Feb. 24.

The latest average positivity rate in Vermont is 1.72%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Vermont, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 1.66% on Feb. 10 to 1.72% on Feb. 24.

More than 74,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 355 cases announced Thursday.

Six new deaths were announced, for a total of 1,163. Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist, said that the majority of 13 recent deaths have been in community settings, not in long-term care facilities.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 361 new cases per day on Feb. 10 to 328 new cases per day on Wednesday.




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