In the first week since the University of New Hampshire (UNH) transitioned to orange mode of operations, positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test numbers have dropped slightly, but remain at very high levels.
Following last Tuesday and Wednesday’s positive test numbers of 75 and 82 respectively that led UNH administrators to change to orange mode, the week finished with testing results totaling 81, 63, and 55 positive cases. So far this week, Monday and Tuesday testing results have produced 46 and 56 positive tests. While these numbers are going down compared to the all-time highs from last week, they still remain far higher than even the biggest days from fall semester.
UNH administrators have not indicated a benchmark of positive cases in order for the Durham campus to return to yellow mode, but the initial plan was to reevaluate the mode of operations following “two complete testing cycles of students before we complete that transition,” according to Provost Wayne Jones in an email, meaning the UNH community should expect an update by the end of the week.
While the current number of active student cases – 428 following Tuesday’s testing – is very concerning to UNH administration and the community alike, many students who went into quarantine or isolation last week will begin leaving their 10-day quarantine in the coming days. With the current number of active cases, the UNH Durham community is now above 3% of all people tested receiving a positive result.
UNH has also been creating additional restrictions to control the capacity of quarantine and isolation dorms as a part of orange mode of operations. This includes no longer allowing off-campus students to quarantine or isolate in the campus dorms, as well as allowing students in on-campus apartments the ability to quarantine in their normal living spaces. In the past few day’s administrators have also made the decision to move students out of Eaton House (part of the Minis) in order to use the building as additional quarantine space.
According to the COVID-19 testing dashboard there are currently 97 students isolating on campus (97 out of 240 Adams Tower West Capacity) and 52 students quarantining on campus (52 out of 170 Babcock capacity, not including additional space in Eaton House). UNH administrators have indicated multiple times that lack of space in quarantine and isolation dorms would lead to campus going into red mode, effectively shutting down for the semester. However, with the increased number of beds in Adams Tower West as a reaction to rising cases, and the assumption of Eaton House for quarantine space, UNH is doing everything they can to avoid running out of space.
Despite the spread of COVID-19 on the UNH campus, overall COVID-19 cases in the state of New Hampshire and across the country generally have been going down steadily since highs in mid-January. The state of New Hampshire is currently averaging 350 positive tests per day, down more than 60% since mid-January where daily cases averaged over 800. COVID-19 cases attributed to UNH account for more than 15% of total cases in the state. Durham currently has 377 active cases, surpassing Manchester as the leading municipality in active cases.
Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.