On March 1, 2021, University of New Hampshire President James Dean announced in an email to students and faculty that the university would be returning to yellow mode, a distinction that would allow for full student-focused operation on campus. 

“Because we continue to see a decline in the number of positive COVID cases as a result of your vigilance and commitment, the Durham campus will return to yellow mode of operation effective immediately,” Dean said.  

Dean also mentioned that students or faculty members who were working remotely before the transition to orange mode on Feb. 11 can continue to do so. 

Since Feb. 24, there has been an average of just under 11 positive cases per day; a number that has decreased by over 14 cases per day from the prior seven-day stretch (Feb. 17-23). The most detrimental period to the university’s yellow mode operations came from Feb. 9 to Feb. 15 when there was an average of over 57 cases per day. At one point during that span, more than 650 UNH community members were in quarantine either on or off-campus. 

This transition comes just one week after Dean released an email to the UNH community stating that UNH would be returning to in-person instruction while still maintaining all other orange mode restrictions. 

Despite the decrease in COVID-19 cases on campus, Dean emphasized that students and faculty need to maintain vigilant behavior when performing social distancing and wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

“Thank you for helping us to get here, but let me be clear,” Dean said. “We’re not out of the woods yet. We know that small indoor gatherings are just as likely to spread the virus as the so-called super spreader events unless public health guidelines (physical distancing, face coverings and keeping gatherings small) are followed. Limiting unnecessary travel and keeping your social circle small really do make a difference.” 

In a Feb. 10 video, Senior Vice Provost of Student Life Kenneth Holmes stated that one positive case had over 19 close contacts, and that there was an increasing number of close contacts per case throughout the first few weeks of the spring semester. 

On Feb. 24, The New Hampshire reported that the university is working with landlords in Durham and the surrounding towns, hoping to get students to adhere to the public health and safety guidelines set forth by UNH and the town of Durham. This is in conjunction with UNH student life’s meetings with students in off-campus housing about these guidelines. 

Before the change to orange mode, UNH was planning to open up more opportunities to students. This included the potential to acquire a ticket to attend a men’s hockey home game versus Northeastern University on Feb. 12, where they were allowing 500 students in the Whittemore Center for the contest. These opportunities will no longer be realized, at least for the foreseeable future even though the university has transitioned back to yellow mode. 
 
“We know these are challenging times,” Dean said. “We continue to look for ways to provide access to in-person opportunities, but for now, no spectators are permitted at any athletics game, inside or out. The first home football game Friday, March 5, will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Boston and streamed online starting at 7 p.m. We know this is disappointing for many of you, but there are opportunities to engage safely; the university’s main calendar lists a variety of other choices.” 

Photo courtesy of the Union Leader.