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College has fresh COVID cluster

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2020 9:41:01 PM
Modified: 10/12/2020 9:40:49 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College said three undergraduate students living off-campus have tested positive for COVID-19, but authorities would not identify the town where the cluster is located.

“These students, who were living together off-campus and have had limited access to campus, are in isolation, resting comfortably, and receiving medical care and support,” Dartmouth COVID-19 Task Force Co-chairs Dr. Lisa Adams and Josh Keniston said in an email sent to the college community.

About 2,000 Dartmouth students, including graduate students, are living off campus, both in Hanover and Lebanon and as far afield as Grantham and Quechee. Most classes are being taught remotely and Dartmouth has allowed only about half of its undergraduate student body back on campus each term.

Both the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the Vermont Department of Health are working on contact tracing in order to identify anyone who had close contact with the students two days prior to their symptom onset or their notice of positive results, Adams and Keniston said in the email.

New Hampshire defines a cluster, or outbreak, as three or more people with active COVID-19 linked through case investigation, contact tracing or other manner.

Both Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence and Vermont Department of Health spokesman Ben Truman said they could not provide specific information about where the students might reside.

In addition to the three students, Dartmouth’s COVID-19 dashboard shows two members of its faculty or staff also are infected currently. The college has reported a total of 12 cases since July 1.

Enfield market mishap

In Enfield, police are working to determine whether charges might be warranted after two people sold housewares at an outdoor market on Saturday despite having recently tested positive for COVID-19.

The pair, Lurdes and Dinarte Alves, also “misrepresented” the identity of their business to market organizers, Enfield Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth said in a Monday email.

Prior to the event, the Alveses, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, told organizers that they were affiliated with a business called Whiskey Kissed Co., but that turned out not to be the case, Aylesworth said. Because of this confusion, Enfield officials identified Whiskey Kissed Co. as the vendor that had tested positive for COVID-19 in a Saturday news release.

“These individuals were reportedly familiar with Whiskey Kissed and its products via a member of their family, but, although the products they were selling were similar in nature to what Whiskey Kissed sells, these two individuals misrepresented their affiliation with Whiskey Kissed when registering with Enfield Market organizers,” Aylesworth said.

A post to the Enfield Listserv in advance of the event described Whiskey Kissed’s wares as including paintings and “porch leaners,” which are decorative signs.

The Alveses were at the market at Huse Park from about 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., before they left at the request of the market organizers, who had “received reports” of the Alveses’ positive test results that they had received less than 24 hours before the market, according to the news release from the town.

Aylesworth said the pair used “very bad judgement,” noting that he deferred to the police and New Hampshire Attorney General’s assessment of the incident.

Enfield Police Chief Roy Holland said in a Monday email that he would be working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether charges were warranted.

The Attorney General’s Office had not yet heard from Enfield officials regarding the situation involving the Alveses, said Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said in a Monday phone call.

However, she said that state law enforcement and public health officials have primarily focused on educating members of the public about the importance of quarantining when they are at risk of having contracted COVID-19 and isolating when they have been diagnosed with the disease.

The Attorney General’s Office advises local public health and law enforcement officers to first let people know what rules they are supposed to follow to stay away from others while they may be infectious, she said.

When people do not comply, Edwards said the Department of Health and Human Services can issue an order of quarantine or isolation, which can be enforced by law enforcement.

The state issued one such order in early March to a Dartmouth-Hitchcock employee who attended a private Tuck School of Business event in White River Junction despite being asked to isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.

Edwards said she didn’t know how many formal orders the state had issued so far, but, “It’s not that many.” Often, a verbal warning clarifying the requirements and the risks involved is sufficient, she said.

Other legal issues such as the state’s disorderly conduct statute, RSA 644:2, may also come into play in response to public safety issues relating to COVID-19, according to a March memo to law enforcement from Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

A person may violate the law if he or she “knowingly or purposely creates a condition which is hazardous to himself or another in a public place by any action which serves no legitimate purpose,” according to the statute.

Businesses facing such a violation could see a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $20,000. But, in his memo, MacDonald emphasized the goals of educating the public and seeking “voluntary compliance.”

So far, town officials are aware of two people that may have been asked to quarantine as a result of interactions with the Alveses at the market, Aylesworth said.

“Other individuals may be electing to self-quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution or at the request of an employer,” he said.

In addition, DHHS is still conducting contact tracing, he said. Due to health privacy reasons, DHHS officials may not be able to tell town officials how many people need to self-quarantine as a result of possible exposure at the market.

The monthly outdoor market has rules in place intended to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Market vendors and shoppers are asked to avoid the market if they are positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, or is experiencing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, Aylesworth said.

Vendors also are required to allow extra space between tents and all participants are required to wear masks.

In spite of these precautions, Aylesworth said town officials are “thoroughly reviewing existing policies and procedures and trying to identify ways to further reduce potential public exposure to COVID-19.”

Case in Sunapee

Elsewhere in the Upper Valley on Monday, Sunapee school officials issued a statement saying that though the state’s online COVID- 19 school dashboard indicates one active case of COVID-19 at Sunapee Central Elementary School, it involves a student who has not attended school since Sept. 18.

“We do not have an active case student in Sunapee Central Elementary School and no children or teachers were exposed or had any close contact with the student,” according to the COVID update posted to the district’s webpage on Monday.

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




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