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Schools curtail travel in response to coronavirus while shoppers stock up on supplies

  • Shawn Caffrey, of Cornish, N.H., arranges items in the back of his truck after shopping at a big box store in West Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, March, 2, 2020. Caffrey was shopping with his mother, Susan Williams. They said on this shopping trip they bought extra soups and larger quantities of their regular shopping items, keeping the coronavirus in the back of their minds. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

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    Naomi Branch, of Lebanon, N.H., checks her phone after leaving a pharmacy empty handed in West Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, March, 2, 2020. Branch, who is an Uber driver, had been to five stores looking for hand sanitizer and face masks. "You don't think about that stuff until you need it and can't find it," she said. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 3/2/2020 6:14:33 PM
Modified: 3/2/2020 10:23:45 PM

WEST LEBANON — Concerns about the coronavirus heightened on Monday as several Upper Valley schools scrapped overseas trips and shoppers stocked up on food and sanitary supplies, some of which were in short supply along Route 12A.

Hanover High School on Monday told parents that it has decided to cancel all of its so-called “March Intensive” trips that involve student travel outside of the continental United States, including planned trips to Poland, Spain, France, Colombia and Puerto Rico.

“We did not come to this decision lightly, given how greatly we value these learning experiences. We will be working with faculty trip leaders to devise meaningful March Intensive experiences for the students impacted by this decision. While everyone is heartbroken by the situation, we are confident that the week can be produc tive,” Hanover High principal Justin Camp bell and SAU 70 Superintendent Jay Badams said in an email to the Hanover High community.

Dartmouth College Provost Joseph Helble emailed staff and students about the confirmation of a COVID-19 case involving a Dartmouth-Hitchcock employee and said a “high-level” college task force is now meeting daily to analyze risk and plan for possible disruptions related to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recommended considering the postponement or cancellation of student foreign exchange programs, we are reviewing the feasibility of continuing with our spring term off-campus programs,” Helble said in the email. “We expect to announce a decision later this week … We recognize that this is a stressful time for many members of our community.”

Last week, Dartmouth ended a Language Study Abroad program in Rome because of concerns about the viral outbreak.

Lebanon Schools Superintendent Joanne Roberts also wrote parents and staff on Monday, saying she and other school officials had met with city officials on Friday afternoon to discuss symptoms of COVID-19 and city-wide emergency response planning. Her email included health tips, ranging from washing hands often for at least 20 seconds to staying home from class or work until fever-free for at least 24 hours without having taken any fever-reducing medication.

Kimball Union Academy in Meriden canceled a school trip to Spain and is providing alternative arrangements for students from abroad who are unable to return home to their families during a spring break that begins on Friday.

Some boarding students are staying in Plainfield with host families, while others will join relatives or friends elsewhere in the U.S. or take part in educational spring break programs designed for international boarding students, said KUA spokeswoman Tricia McKeon.

“Our administration team is meeting regularly as COVID-19 rapidly evolves, and we are all supporting our young students as they deal with the stress and anxiety a situation like this can cause,” she said.

Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan canceled an “enrichment trip” to Greece and Italy planned for this month and are communicating with families from China and South Korea about plans for their children during the upcoming March break, according to a letter sent Friday from Cardigan Head of School Christopher Day.

The boarding school for boys in grades six through nine includes 85 international students from 17 countries.

“Thanks to the caring and energy of our faculty, the school is sponsoring a special New England trip to accommodate those students without an alternative plan in the United States,” Day said in the letter.

At Thetford Academy, Head of School Carrie Brennan said international students there don’t travel home for February or April breaks, so that is not an immediate concern. “We are looking ahead to future concerns regarding our international students returning home for the summer recess and will be monitoring the situation this spring,” she said via email.

The viral outbreak sent many Upper Valley residents to the stores in case they have to isolate at home, and there was a run on such items as hand sanitizer and face masks. (The Centers for Disease Control advise that people should only wear masks at the recommendation of a health care professional, and generally do not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.)

Quechee resident Jackie Coyne, 68, said at the WalMart in West Lebanon said she had antibacetrial soap, medicines and mints, and was going to get water.

“Just basic things that I think people are going to rush to the store and get,” she said. “I’m not worried about the virus, but I’m worried about the rush.”

“My husband thinks I’m crazy but I think it’s better to be prepared than to run out of things that you need,” she added.

But outside of the nearby Price Chopper off Route 12A, Francine Scheller of Grantham was less concerned.

“I don’t see this as a whole lot different than the H1N1 virus … basically keep things clean and wash your hands,” Scheller said.

Rohan Chakravarty can be reached at rchakravarty@vnews.com. John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.




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