College reports three-person COVID-19 case cluster off campus, 19 other student cases

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 1/8/21 2:10am

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by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

As students prepare to return to campus in less than two weeks, the College has reported that a total of 20 students, faculty and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week — a sudden spike after a fall term that saw generally low case numbers. As of Friday morning, there are 24 active cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff, and 59 community members are in quarantine or isolation, either at their homes in the Hanover area or on campus.

Provost Joseph Helble announced during Thursday’s “Community Conversations” livestream that among the new cases, a “cluster” of three undergraduate students living locally off campus has tested positive for COVID-19. The other 19 active cases among undergraduate and graduate students are either standalone or related to one other case, according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence.

According to an email to campus from COVID-19 task force co-chairs Lisa Adams and Josh Keniston, the students in the cluster are “in isolation, resting comfortably and receiving medical care and support.”

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the Vermont Department of Health are conducting a contact tracing investigation to identify individuals who were in close contact with these students.

Just two faculty and staff members are actively positive for COVID-19, but according to the College’s dashboard, 20 are in isolation. Lawrence explained that those in isolation “have symptoms and may be awaiting test results.”

Despite the spike in test positivity rates, Helble noted that the College remains committed to its plans to allow students to begin returning to campus on Jan. 16 and 17.

Pre-arrival testing for students returning to campus is also underway. On Thursday evening, Dartmouth College Health Services director Mark Reed wrote in an email to students returning to campus that there has been a delay in the processing of pre-arrival tests. Lawrence attributed the delay in part to holiday backups, as well as a potentially increased demand for the services of the third-party vendor that distributes the testing kits.

“We are working to address the delays,” Lawrence added.

Of the 207 pre-arrival tests that the College has received as of Thursday evening, there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 reported.