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Students returning to campuses bring COVID with them

  • Franklin Pierce University Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Franklin Pierce University Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Kimball Union Academy seniors walk past the Meriden Congregational Church on Chellis Road in Meriden, N.H., while lining up for the commencement ceremony in Meriden, N.H., on May 28, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Monitor Staff
Published: 8/25/2020 4:56:00 PM

Students are starting to return to residential New Hampshire campuses this week, and in some places, the COVID-19 virus is right behind them. An individual has tested positive for COVID-19 at the boarding school Kimball Union Academy just days after student orientation leaders arrived back on campus, and Franklin Pierce University has discovered six confirmed cases last week.

Kimball Union, located in the village of Meriden in the town of Plainfield, confirmed Monday that an individual in the school community tested positive for COVID-19 as part of the school’s “initial testing” process before classes begin.

“While we realize that this is unsettling news, please know this is a situation we have rigorously prepared for in anticipation of the arrival of our students and faculty, and for the reopening of campus,” read a statement that was sent out to the community Monday. “We are focused on the care of this individual as they continue their recovery.”

According to the statement, the person was removed from daily activities and is currently quarantining. The school reported the case to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the health center immediately began contact tracing to identify anyone the person may have interacted with, who may have been exposed. If anyone is identified as having been exposed, the school said they will also be placed in quarantine and will be monitored for symptoms and tested. 

School officials plan to continue with the reopening process as scheduled. Student orientation leaders began returning to campus on Saturday. New and returning students will continue to arrive in shifts this week until classes begin Friday.

According to school policy, Kimball Union students are supposed to quarantine for 14 days before starting classes. International students can quarantine on-campus, while domestic day students are asked to quarantine at home. Domestic boarding students can do seven days at home and seven days in the dorms. Everyone on campus is required to wear face masks in public areas and maintain social distance as much as possible.

At Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, six students tested positive for COVID-19 during testing that was done on every student immediately upon arrival to campus. None showed symptoms of sickness. The students who tested positive are being quarantined, according to a campus-wide communication to students and faculty on Saturday. Others who have been identified as having high-risk exposure to a student who tested positive are also being quarantined and will be re-tested.

Franklin Pierce students began moving in on Aug. 16, and classes began last Thursday. According to school policy, masks must be worn in all common spaces, classrooms and outside when in groups of 10 people or more. 

“Having positive cases is not unexpected and is something we planned for,” wrote Dean of Students Andrew Pollom. “The question has always been not whether we would encounter COVID-19, but what steps we will take collectively to reduce the likelihood of exposure and keep the community safe.”

DHHS is currently working to develop a website that will list all New Hampshire schools and the number of COVID-19 cases identified at each. The department says it will issue public notifications if any school experiences an outbreak.

(Material from the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript was used in this report.) 


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