The University of New Hampshire (UNH) has seen a sharp decline in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the community. 

Even as the university was forced to transition to its orange mode of operations and  struggled containing COVID-19 cases in February, positivity rates are the lowest they have been since September.  

Cases spiked in early February, with cases peaking at a high of 506 on Feb.19. With an average of 43 daily positive cases, over 498 individual students were in isolation, with another 637 in quarantine.  

Only 31 active cases remain within the community, with 28 students in isolation, along with one faculty member and two staff members. Quarantine numbers remain high, with 108 individuals quarantined, with 18 quarantined on campus.  

Even as Gov. Chris Sununu lifted New Hampshire’s statewide mask mandate on April 16, Durham and UNH maintained their own individual mandates for community members.  

This sharp decline in cases can potentially be attributed to warmer weather, as well as increasing vaccination rates among students. 

UNH held three vaccination clinics for community members throughout April, with over 6,000 total appointments booked between the clinics. 

Ronald O’Keefe, UNH’s assistant director of emergency management was responsible for overseeing the three clinics. 

“The support we’ve had between the nursing students, faculty and staff, Whittemore Center, recreation, athletics, McGregor Memorial Ambulance, Durham Fire Department. I’m just overwhelmed with it and I am extremely happy with how it’s been going,” said O’Keefe.  

During the first two clinics, O’Keefe noted UNH had received over 4,200 appointments, with nearly 3,400 appointments scheduled by students. 

The third clinic, which had expanded eligibility, scheduled 2,706 appointments, with 2,356 actually individuals receiving their shots.  

Even with the expanded eligibility, fewer appointments were booked and technical issues caused much longer wait times for students. According to O’Keefe, the average wait time was 30 minutes, even as six additional stations were added to simplify the process. 

“Overall, the UNH COVID vaccination team operated at a high level of efficiency and professionalism,” said O’Keefe.  

New Hampshire has one of the highest vaccination rates within the country, with over 60% of eligible adults having received their first shot.  

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they found that both the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provided some level of protection against COVID-19. 

The CDC found that partial vaccination, which is defined as 14 days after receiving the first dose of either vaccine yields an efficacy of 53% for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 47% for Moderna’s vaccine.  

Though cases appear to be trending downwards, UNH Police Chief Paul Dean urges students to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and continue to adhere to safety measures. 

“I encourage the campus community to continue to be vigilant. Consider getting vaccinated, wear your mask, physically distance, and wash your hands. Together, we can make a difference,” said Dean in a statement.  

Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.