After reporting zero new positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on Nov. 1, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) announced 16 new cases on Nov. 5 and 60 total active cases, per their COVID-19 dashboard. Forty-seven of the 60 are students, while 10 are faculty or staff and three are categorized as “other/contractor.” 

This is the largest number of daily cases UNH has announced in its fall semester, and the most overall since its testing program was implemented on Aug. 31. The previous high was a total of 51 positive cases on Sept. 2.  

In an email to The New Hampshire, UNH spokeswoman Erika Mantz said that the university is “investigating allegations of several off-campus large gatherings over the Halloween weekend.”  

There has been a steady rise since Oct. 30 when UNH announced 22 overall cases. Since that date, the university reported 41 overall positives on Nov. 2, 46 on Nov. 5 and now 60. The positivity rate has jumped .15% in the past 10 days. It was .09% on Oct. 27, and now stands at .24%. 

Just after 1 p.m. on Nov. 6, UNH president James Dean sent out a video of himself and Senior Vice Provost for Student Life Kenneth Holmes explaining the rise in COVID-19 cases on campus. “Cases of COVID-19 are rising in our community, across New Hampshire and throughout the country,” Dean said. “UNH is working hard to track cases on and off campus every day. We really want to keep our campuses open through November 20, as planned. But every single one of us must commit to staying vigilant for that to happen.” 

Holmes urged students, faculty, staff and visitors to “double down on the steps we all need to follow to stay safe and healthy.” Holmes also stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others. Also, he emphasized the importance of avoiding large gatherings and submitting COVID-19 self-tests on schedule. In his address, he said that “students who don’t comply with testing protocols will be identified with community standards office and removed from campus.” 

Dean included that positive cases aren’t the only concern for the university, as the contact tracing process has gotten more difficult in recent weeks. “While our positive cases remain below the state and U.S. level, we are seeing the number of close contacts of each positive case steadily climb,” Dean said. 

There are currently 325 people in quarantine either at UNH or at off-campus locations. In the last 10 days, that number has increased by over 200, as there were only 120 people in quarantine on Oct. 27. 

Despite the number of UNH’s positive cases going up, Dean exclaimed his gratitude for the UNH community and their efforts for the last three months to keep the campus up and running. “These are challenging times, especially as we approach the holidays,” Dean said. “We are truly grateful for everyone in our wildcat community for staying safe and healthy through this semester.” 

UNH only has two more weeks of in-person operations due to their adjusted schedule. Remote operations will begin on Nov. 20 and will continue after the Thanksgiving holiday until the end of the fall semester on Dec. 22. The university hasn’t announced testing procedures for their planned reopening of campus and the first day of classes in February.  

Photo Courtesy of The University of New Hampshire