COVID case spike forces schools, businesses and groups to adapt

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2022 11:37:53 PM
Modified: 1/7/2022 11:19:32 AM

HANOVER — Spiking COVID cases across the Upper Valley are forcing schools, arts organizations and businesses to make tough decisions in hopes of preventing the virus from spreading.

Dartmouth College has canceled all college-sponsored in-person gatherings for the first two weeks in January due to the omicron variant and how easily it can be transferred. Academic and religious gatherings will not be impacted.

“We cannot monitor all indoor gatherings, and we do not intend to police enforcement, but we expect all students to act responsibly and avoid indoor social gatherings,” Richard Mills, executive vice president, and David Kotz, interim provost, wrote in a Jan. 4 announcement to students. They encouraged students to instead gather outside.

The policy will be revisited at the end of the two weeks and may be adjusted based on the rate of cases at the college.

Beginning Jan. 31, Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts will require patrons to have booster shots to be considered fully vaccinated. People who are unvaccinated can still attend events as long as they can provide a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours.

“In order for our community to continue participating in activities and enjoying events at the Hop, we have adopted the following requirements for all attendees, in accordance with Dartmouth’s current policies,” according to a news release from the organization.

Masks will still be required for all patrons, regardless of vaccination status.

Staff at the Lebanon Opera House are currently mulling what it means to be “fully vaccinated.” One challenge is if potentially requiring booster shots should apply to events that patrons purchased tickets when fully vaccinated was defined as having two shots.

“We’re trying to understand what our obligation is to uphold that bond … with our audiences but also being really aware of our goal as defenders of public health,” said Joe Clifford, executive director of the Lebanon Opera House. “It’s about defining the moment you can set the new bar and going forward from there.”

Currently, the opera house had been planning on including children ages 12 and up in its vaccination policies for adults after Feb. 1, but that staff will be re-evaluating it along with booster policies. The opera house plans to announce those changes next week, Clifford said.

There is a benefit to having arts organizations throughout the Upper Valley have similar policies, as many patrons go to events at multiple venues, Clifford said. Since the New Year, more people have been contacting the opera house to ask about booster shots.

“Each venue is built differently and has different concerns, but I think whenever possible, as colleagues, if we can think about leveling the playing field,” they should, Clifford said. “The hardest thing is the goalposts keep shifting. Every time we get it nailed, COVID throws us another wrinkle.”

In Bradford, Vt., The Space on Main — a coworking space that also holds events including workshops and tabletop gaming gatherings — is requiring people to show proof of vaccination, said Monique Priestley, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization. Its January artisan market was canceled due to rising case rates. Everyone entering the space is required to provide proof of vaccination, Priestley wrote in a Facebook message. They will likely begin requiring people to have booster shots next month to be considered fully vaccinated. People who rent The Space on Main are also required to make sure anyone who attends their private events complies.

New London’s Center for the Arts has postponed three events due to rising cases. A performance titled “Stars of Tomorrow” scheduled for Friday, a living history presentation, “The Long and Short of It: Abraham and Mary Lincoln,” scheduled for Jan. 15, and the literary “A Life Between the Lines: A Half-Century of My Poetic Journey” featuring Dianalee Velie scheduled for Jan. 18 will all be rescheduled, according to multiple announcements from the nonprofit organization.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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