Dartmouth has reinstated an indoor mask requirement, effective immediately, for all members of the community, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
In a community email Thursday afternoon, Interim Provost David Kotz ’86 and Executive Vice President Rick Mills cited a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in the past few days among fully vaccinated students and employees on campus, as well as an increasing number of cases linked to the delta variant in the region.
Kotz and Mills also indicated that it is likely that they will institute a policy requiring more frequent COVID-19 surveillance testing for vaccinated employees and students, “which the CDC recommends as an important tool for identifying and interrupting the asymptomatic spread of the virus.”
Kotz and Mills wrote, “We understand that much has been asked of you over the past 16 months and we do not take this step lightly. We believe that early intervention of this kind will offer us the best chance to avoid future disruptions and the earliest possible return to normalcy. We will continue to revisit the need for an indoor masking requirement and are hopeful we can relax this requirement at the end of September.”
Under the new requirements:
- Masking is not required in private, non-shared spaces such as a dorm room or office, or when actively eating or drinking.
- If they do not have symptoms, students in shared dorm rooms are permitted to remove face coverings while in their room with their roommates.
- Masking will not be required outdoors.
“This return to indoor masking is consistent with similar policies at our peer schools,” Kotz and Mills wrote.
On Wednesday, the town of Hanover announced the reinstatement of an indoor mask policy, citing the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections driven by the delta variant that is now affecting the region despite good progress on public health efforts in New Hampshire and Vermont to vaccinate the eligible population.
“Remember that vaccination remains our best defense in the battle against COVID-19. The existing vaccines are more than 90% effective at preventing more severe disease from the highly contagious delta variant. Please ensure that you and your family are protected,” Kotz and Mills wrote, pointing community to the www.vaccines.gov website for information regarding local vaccination centers and to Dartmouth’s COVID-19 website for updated information about the institution’s COVID-19 policies and practices.
“We are grateful for the many ways in which you have all stepped up to safeguard the health and well-being of our community over the past 16 months. COVID-19 is still with us and is likely to present us with a series of new and unexpected challenges over the year ahead,” Kotz and Mills wrote.
“We ask for your continued help, patience, and flexibility as we work through these challenges and thank you for everything you are doing to support your colleagues, our students, and this institution.”