Rise in COVID-19 Cases at UNH Leaves Campus Wary


Amanda Pirani, News Editor

DURHAM – A recent report of more than 360 active COVID-19 cases at the University of New Hampshire has given students a sense of deja-vu as they enter their first fall term free of both mask and testing requirements since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we expected, our initial mandatory testing revealed that COVID is in our community,” said Paul Dean, Chief of Police and Co-Chair of UNH Testing and Tracing Committee, in a community wide email sent out last Wednesday. 

For students experiencing symptoms, the Health &Wellness Covid Clinic offers observed testing, rapid testing, additional test kits and travel testing. Students who test positive are required to follow appropriate quarantining and masking guidelines

While many may be startled by the sudden spread, Mackenzie Johannes Meyer, a registered nurse and Covid Clinic Manager at Health & Wellness, described the trend as expected. 

“I think that it’s a theme that we’ve seen every year as students come back to campus, they’re traveling from all over the country and the world,” she said. “And we’re also seeing the variant that seems to be more contagious than we’ve seen in the past,” said Meyer. 

As part of the change in policy for the fall semester, UNH is no longer updating its COVID-19 Dashboard due to the voluntary nature of testing. However, the university continues to track some data internally. 

“So we can tell if there’s a spike, or if we’re seeing different trends, we can see it through contact tracing of certain areas or in dorms, the wastewater is also tested. So we can see trends through that,” Meyer explained. 

New Hampshire institutions such as Plymouth and Keene State College are experiencing a similar rise in COVID-19 cases due to the start of the fall semester. Keene State College issued a temporary mask mandate for classrooms in response, which was announced by President Melinda D. Treadwell in a campus-wide email on Sept. 9. 

“In the past week, we have experienced an increase in reported cases of COVID-19 at Keene State. This is not surprising but we want to take quick action to slow the spread and limit disruption to our operations and your experiences here at Keene State College,” Treadewell stated.

To the disappointment of some students, there has been no suggestion that policies will change at UNH.

“I have health anxiety and so it’s stressful,” said a fifth year student at UNH. “It basically just means that I spent more time in my suite.”

Others, however, are willing to face some risks for a return to normal student life. 

“Maybe I should,” said a fourth year student, “but I don’t really have any tolerance for that. I don’t wear my mask anymore, and I’m actually very glad that you don’t have to wear masks anymore.”

“I think at this point, the policies are the way that they are,” said Meyer. “So it’s hard to say if they’ll stay the same or not, but it’s constantly being looked at.”

While University masking policy remains divisive, there is overwhelming interest in vaccines as a preventative measure. The Moderna multi-varient COVID-19 booster was distributed to 300 UNH community members on Sept. 20at Paul College, and will be offered up again to students through the University’s annual flu clinics Oct.12 and Oct. 28. The flu clinics will be accepting walk-ins, but appointments are highly suggested.