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COVID-19: Vermont eases restrictions on residents of border towns

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 2/26/2021 9:50:05 PM
Modified: 2/26/2021 9:50:04 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — There’s good news for Upper Valley residents who live near the Connecticut River. Vermont this week relaxed its COVID-19 travel restrictions slightly so that residents of border towns can travel across the river — in a limited zone — without quarantining.

“Those living in Vermont may travel 5 miles into adjacent states without quarantining upon return to Vermont. Those living in adjacent states within 5 miles of the Vermont border may travel 5 miles into Vermont without quarantining,” the Agency of Commerce and Community Development announced on its website on Thursday.

“Vermont’s travel policy recognizes that many Vermont border towns are culturally and economically inseparable from the neighboring state’s border towns, and provides common-sense relief from Vermont’s quarantine policy for essential and necessary travel between border towns that occurs in the same day.”

The ACCD said essential travel includes “regular day-to-day travel that must occur for an individual’s health, safety and economic security,” such as grocery shopping, work or visits to a health care provider. And necessary travel is defined as travel for “an activity that you deem necessary to your physical or mental health,” including going to church, the gym, getting a haircut or “place-based outdoor recreation.”

However, still forbidden is cross-state travel for social gatherings, dining at a restaurant or bar, or going to an indoor venue for entertainment, such as a movie theater or bowling alley.

Nonetheless, the loosening of a 5-mile perimeter at the borders is a change from October, when Vermont began requiring a quarantine for nonessential travel between the state and New Hampshire counties, among other bordering areas.

Dartmouth case counts grow

HANOVER — Dartmouth College reported another 21 active COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a total of 58, as more students also went into quarantine or isolation. There were 81 students and four employees in quarantine and 74 students and seven employees in isolation, Dartmouth said Friday afternoon on its web-based dashboard, which was likely to be updated overnight.

That means about 4% of the estimated 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students living in or near the Upper Valley and being tested, including about 2,000 on campus for winter term, are now in isolation or quarantine. Dartmouth’s quarantine is for people who do not have symptoms and have not tested positive for COVID-19 but are at risk because of travel or a close contact with someone with the coronavirus. People in isolation are those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms and are awaiting test results.

Dartmouth said about 10% of the rooms it has set aside for quarantine or isolation are currently occupied.

Asked whether Dartmouth was testing for a potential new variant of COVID-19, college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said via email, “The state of New Hampshire will make a determination regarding whether to look for variants of the virus.”

Hanover Health Officer Michael Hinsley said most of the transmission appears to be occurring among Dartmouth undergraduates. “When we look at the profile of students, almost everybody is an undergraduate,” Hinsley said.

He also said given that all the new active cases involve students, and that they are coming into contact with cafeteria workers, professors and other Dartmouth employees who have not tested positive, he believes the policies in place are sufficient if people continue to wear masks and take other safety precautions, such as social distancing.

“When people adhere to these policies and procedures, they are protected,” Hinsley said. “It’s effective.”

But he also said that given the spread among students, it “can be inferred very quickly that they are not adhering to the established safety protocols that all of us need to follow. What’s clear is those individuals who are adhering to it are not becoming positive,” Hinsley said.

Separately, Dartmouth English professor Jeff Sharlet tweeted that he had been told by students that while their classmates comply with the rules outside of residence halls, wearing a mask in a dormitory “can mark you as a narc.” Sharlet, who made clear he did not think such behavior was limited to college students at Dartmouth, also later added, “more students now telling me anonymously about widespread contempt for protocols.”

Lawrence, the Dartmouth spokeswoman, said the college currently is focused on community health and safety and the public health response, and added, “If we receive reports of violations of group gathering, testing, or other college guidelines, we will respond accordingly.”

Food boxes come to the Valley

BETHEL — Vermont is set to distribute Farmers to Families food boxes at early March events in Bethel and Wells River.

The Bethel distribution of the boxes containing produce, dairy products and meat is scheduled for Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Baptist Church on Route 107. The Wells River stop is scheduled for March 8 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Agency of Transportation garage on Industrial Park Road.

Registration is required and can be done online at https://humanresources.vermont.gov/food-help. While people can pick up for more than one household, each must register separately. Registration closes at noon the day before the event. People in the Newbury, Vt., area can also call Newbury United’s Helpline at 802-274-1120 for assistance.

Windsor School has COVID-19 case

WINDSOR — Windsor School had a COVID-19 case in a student this week that required 10 other students and two adults to quarantine, according to the superintendent.

The student contracted the virus at home, said Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Baker in an email. The school was on vacation from Feb. 15-19.

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com. Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com.




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