College COVID-19 policies to remain in place in light of increasing cases on campus
Community members can continue to participate in COVID-19 testing and wear masks or ask those around them to do so.
Despite the presence of 339 cases of COVID-19 among Dartmouth community members as of April 12, the College has no plans to reinstate testing or masking requirements “at this time,” according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence.
“Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a rise in case counts throughout our region and on campus,” Lawrence wrote. “We understand the anxiety and uncertainty this may cause about health and safety in our community.”
In addition, Lawrence wrote that there is “no specific threshold” for the number of cases that would cause the College to change current COVID-19 policies. According to Lawrence, College policies consider case counts and hospitalization rates in Grafton County, research on the severity of COVID-19, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, advice from scientific advisors and the Dartmouth Health service, data from symptomatic tests and survey data from 6,000 Dartmouth community members collected last month.
The College continues to offer resources to monitor and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. These include both take-home PCR tests and take-home rapid antigen tests. According to the Dartmouth Vaccines and Testing website, in-person PCR testing is offered in the West Gym on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, though all drop-off and in person testing locations will be closed for Memorial Day on May 30. KN95 masks are available from pick-up sites around campus.
According to Lawrence, the College will host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on April 26, offering primary and secondary doses of the vaccine or first boosters to those who have yet to receive them, as well as a second booster to those who are eligible.
Under current College guidelines, faculty members may request but “may not require” that students wear masks while in class or continue to test at this time, according to Lawrence. Economics professor Douglas Irwin said he has considered asking his students to wear masks in class.
“I seriously considered [last week] asking everyone to mask up in class,” Irwin said. “I decided not to [since] only a few [students in my classes] have tested positive. If it was a more significant number and it seemed like campus-wide cases were going up, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask everyone to mask up in class.”
Irwin added that he teaches in a “fairly modernized classroom” in Silsby Hall, which has enabled students to join on Zoom easily.
“I’ve had a number of students on Zoom [using] a camera in the back of the room, so it’s very easy, and not much of a burden to have people Zoom in if they don’t feel well or if they tested positive,” he said.
After hearing that professors are considering asking their students to mask up, Gannon McCorkle ’24 said that he would be willing to mask up if it made professors more comfortable in their work space.
“Everyone should be able to be comfortable within an educational space, so if professors need [masking] to feel comfortable and to come to work and do their job well, then I think putting on a piece of cloth shouldn’t be a barrier,” McCorkle said.
Despite the rise in cases, McCorkle said he thinks that the College’s current COVID policies should be continued.
“I still feel to some extent that COVID and the masking policy is where it needs to be,” McCorkle said. “We can’t really afford more setbacks when it comes to learning environments and socialization with people that are just trying to live their lives. We’ve already lost so much.”
McCorkle added that he would be willing to participate in asymptomatic testing again if the College found that rising cases were worrisome for the health of the community. Overall, McCorkle said he has found that the current COVID-19 policies on campus have contributed to a sense of a “return to normalcy.”
“Being able to go out and not having to remember to bring a mask, seeing people’s actual faces and being able to socialize at a level deeper than we ever have been able to so far in our college careers is something that I’ve really appreciated,” he said.