(Durham, NH) – The chilly winter weather seems to be coming to an end as spring makes an appearance during the second week of March.
Dr. Peter Degnan, the medical director at the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Health & Wellness is optimistic that warmer weather will help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on campus. “I am hopeful that warmer weather will allow students to spend more time outdoors, physically distanced of course, which will make it much more difficult for the virus to be spread person to person,” said Degnan.
With spring around the corner, the heat in buildings won’t be on constantly. “This will allow for less dry air, which in turn results in a much healthier respiratory system,” Degnan said.
After the university’s short-lived switch into orange mode which is classified as limited operations, it is important that members of UNH don’t let their guard down. According to Degnan, in order for UNH to remain opened for the rest of the semester, “it will take continued vigilance with ongoing public health precautions like mask wearing and physical distancing.”
Although outdoor gatherings can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, Degnan still has some concerns. “My greatest concern is that our community will let our guard down and risk a spike in our infections,” he said.
Degnan recognizes the desperation that some people have to reconnect with friends, but he says it is still too soon to abandon precautions. “That would not only threaten our own personal health, but the health and safety of the larger Durham community,” he said.
UNH sophomore Bobbi Hartmann said she is excited for spring even though she is going to miss winter sports. “I plan on hiking and getting outside more,” she said. “I’m very excited to go swimming again when things thaw and warm up.”
Hartmann shares some of the same concerns as Degnan when it comes to COVID-19 on campus. “Hopefully COVID cases begin to die down a bit in the warmer weather, but I think people will travel and party more, so I think there’s a risk there,” she said.
Degnan believes it is incredibly important for classes to be held in a way where social distancing of at least 6 feet is possible while wearing masks. “If this can be accomplished in both indoor and outdoor settings equally, then I would say that outdoors is even better,” he said.
Hartmann said she took some classes that were held outdoors when possible, during the fall semester. “It was definitely fun,” she said. “But it made it difficult to take notes and retain good information the whole time.”
Degnan recommends that people keep gatherings small, continue to wear masks, and avoid any unnecessary travel in order to remain safe as the weather changes. “If you have access to a COVID vaccine of any type, take it,” he said. “Let’s have a successful semester, and then we can enjoy the upcoming summer.”
Photo courtesy of Danielle Forte/TNH Staff.