As we finish the second week of classes in the spring semester, the number of active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on campus have nearly reached their high from the fall semester causing many students to worry about a possibly-impending campus shutdown. 

As of Wednesday morning, there were 128 active student COVID-19 cases on campus with a 0.79% positivity rate. Over half of these cases resulted from tests on Tuesday alone with 75 students testing positive, more than double the previous single-day high. The high point of active cases occurred on Nov. 20, where there were 134 active student cases, and will most likely surpass this number within the next few days of testing.  

The rise in cases from the beginning of the semester has been the biggest point of concern for UNH administrators, it being a key part of President Jim Dean’s State of the University address where he urged students to avoid “COVID fatigue.” UNH administrators have continued to push the #UNHTogether campaign in an effort to have students continue to wear their masks and avoid large gatherings.  

One of the greatest areas of concern due to the rise of student cases at UNH are the quarantine and isolation dorms, Babcock and Adams Tower West, nearing their capacities with the surge in positive cases. As of today’s, COVID-19 dashboard, there are currently 49 students isolating and 62 students quarantining in the campus dorms. These numbers nearly surpass the highs from fall semester where at the peak there were 51 students in isolation. The capacity of these quarantine and isolation dorms are clearly a large concern for the administration, as Senior Vice Provost for Student Life Kenneth Holmes announced in a video today that off-campus students will no longer be allowed to quarantine in the campus housing in order to keep space available for on campus students. Off-campus students who test positive will still be allowed to isolate in university housing.  

This rise in cases, and the anticipation of more positive cases throughout the rest of the week, have caused many students to worry that UNH will convert the orange level of operations or possibly shut down campus entirely. The orange level, limited operations, would cause most classes to go fully remote with a limited number of in person classes where 25% capacity can be adhered to. On campus housing would remain open, but campus events and facilities would either go to limited operations or completely shut down.  

If UNH took this approach, they would fall in line with what many other colleges and universities across the country are doing in response to rising COVID-19 cases. UMass Amherst decided to follow a similar model, shutting down all in person activities while allowing on campus students to remain in their dorms under strict rules, after a week of over 400 positive cases.  

Students should stay informed about the rising COVID-19 numbers on campus and be on the lookout for any announcements in the coming days. Up to date COVID-19 information can be found at the UNH COVID-19 dashboard.  

Photos courtesy of the University of New Hampshire