Welcome everyone to the 12th community conversation addressing planning, response, and operations in the time of COVID-19. I’m Joe Helble, the provost at Dartmouth College, and joining you once again from the Starr Instructional Studio in Berry Library on a cloudy and rainy Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 2. I’m joined, as always, by Justin Anderson, our VP for communications, who is with us broadcasting from another studio on campus today. Justin and I will be joined by Dr. Ann Bracken, a member of the Geisel School of Medicine faculty, and the director of clinical medical services at Dartmouth’s Health Service, known to all as Dick’s House, a position she has held for the past eight years. Joining Ann will be Jon Plodzik, director of Dartmouth Dining Services, a position he has held here for more than four years after a long career in similar roles at the University of New Hampshire.
Both Jon and Ann will be joining me for a conversation focused on student testing and student dining, two areas where we were received many questions over the past few weeks. Today, we’ll follow our usual format with a campus update, live Q and A moderated by Justin, and then our conversation with campus leaders today, Ann and Jon, and a chance for them to respond to your questions directly.
Now, before we turn to our usual update and discussion of operational details, I’d like to take just a few moments to remind us all of the steps we’ve taken in our campus planning over the past two weeks. Just last Wednesday, President Hanlon and I informed the community that we were continuing with our campus plan for fall term undergraduate education with approximately one half of our student community, including the vast majority of first-year students, the members of the Dartmouth Class of 2024, being in residence in Hanover this fall. Undergraduate students will begin coming to campus early next week with arrivals coming during scheduled time windows and spanning the entirety of the week in anticipation of undergraduate classes beginning as planned for all students remote and local alike on Monday, Sept. 14. Graduate and professional school students have already been arriving over the past month or so, with the majority of these students presently in town. And depending upon their program, a few more will also continue to arrive over the next few weeks.
Now, we know that there have been a range of views expressed within our community regarding the best path forward for Dartmouth this fall, for the institution, and for the broader community. We know that at Dartmouth, in Hanover, and quite honestly, in every college and university community across this country, there are those who would prefer to see a continuation of fully remote operations and those who are excited by the return of students to local campuses. As President Hanlon and I wrote last week, we know well that no decision during this time of pandemic would or possibly could satisfy everyone. That, of course, is the nature of a decision of making a choice, but it’s also a reflection of how challenging living and working in a pandemic is for every member of this community. But with the decision made and the next steps clear, we look forward to working together as a community to support the learning and education of all of our students this fall term, undergraduate and graduate alike, resident and remote learners alike. You are all part of the Dartmouth family.
Our plan, as announced earlier this summer and now underway, utilizes extensive testing of our locally resident students starting pre-arrival and continuing through arrival week and then throughout the term. Dr. Bracken will provide more details later in today’s conversation. But briefly, our plan starts with pre-arrival testing. Dartmouth has contracted with a provider to perform pre-arrival COVID tests for all domestic undergraduate students invited to campus for the fall term. The unique links for these tests were sent to each eligible student last week with the goal of having results in hand prior to their departing from home and prior to their traveling to campus. Any positive tests will require the students, even if asymptomatic, to remain home until the required home isolation period is completed. Dick’s House will be in touch with all individuals receiving any positive results to provide more specific guidance.
Now, for those students, the vast majority of whom will test negative, they will proceed to campus and begin a program of testing upon arrival. Arrival testing will be conducted for all students arriving in Hanover with all undergraduate students being tested on days zero, three, and seven of their arrival on campus. In keeping with the focus on public health for the entire community, and as we’ve announced to students previously, these tests will be conducted with all undergraduate students who have a local address in Hanover, as well as those that are invited to live on campus for fall term. In addition, after we move through the first week of arrival in testing on day zero, three, and seven for all students, we will begin a program of surveillance testing, which will continue throughout the entire fall term. Dartmouth’s ongoing surveillance testing will be of all students, including those living locally in the defined communities. All will be included in this testing protocol.
For surveillance testing, Dartmouth intends to conduct as many as 4,500 additional tests each and every week. All student testing is currently being conducted in the tent in Maynard parking lot next to Dick’s House. And students themselves are receiving instructions as to how testing will be addressed and taken care of during their first week on campus. And subsequently they will receive instructions on how it will proceed throughout the rest of the fall term period.
In addition to student testing, employee testing will also be conducted as part of our plan for fall term campus reopening, as confirmed in an email that was sent to all Dartmouth employees late last week. Dartmouth, in partnership with our occupational medicine partner, Axiom, has already begun, in fact, initial testing of employees approved to work on site, and that work will continue throughout the fall term. All employees who return to campus to perform their work will be tested. Further ongoing surveillance testing is also planned for as many as 500 employees per week. Employee testing will take place in one physical location on the first floor of 4 Currier. And if an employee is instructed to self-isolate or quarantine due to the results of occupational medicine screening through this testing program, the employee will be directed to contact HR to discuss next steps.
And of course, given our current operational status, at the middle condition, limited access, a condition that’s indicated on our reopening level webpage under the Dartmouth COVID-19 site, those employees, in fact, all those employees whose job allows them to work remotely, should continue to do so. Now, for those employees who will be returning to campus to work, temperature stations have been established as of this past Monday, Aug. 31. And all employees, faculty and staff, as well as all students who have been approved to be on campus need to complete a health screening each and every day they access a campus building.
Now, this is important. We are asking every member of the community, every member who will be on campus to complete this screening each and every day they will access the campus. Now, what does that mean for students who are resident on campus? Well, those who live on campus are by definition on campus every day. And they are therefore required to complete the health screening application tool daily, regardless of whether they plan to leave their dormitory room. The screening and the form that students, faculty, and staff will be filling out entails answering questions through the temperature self-assessment or TSA website and taking your temperature. For those who don’t have immediate access to a thermometer, Dartmouth has installed non-contact wall-mounted infrared thermometers in 32 locations on campus. After taking your temperature either in the isolation of your room or at one of these stations, we then ask everyone to then complete, as I’ve said, the TSA questionnaire online.
Now please note that Dartmouth is no longer staffing physical locations where you can answer the TSA questions. If accessing the TSA via the website is not possible for you, I ask employees or students to contact your dean or advisor, or your supervisor or department head if you’re faculty or staff, and more information on next steps and an appropriate way to access the questionnaire on a daily basis will be provided to you.
Now, as President Hanlon and I noted in our email message to the Dartmouth community last week, information on our testing program will be made available transparently to the community through a dashboard. That dashboard, which in fact went live yesterday, Sept. 1, is available through the Dartmouth COVID-19 informational website, including via the URL http://dartgo.org/COVID-dashboard. And it provides information on testing numbers and outcomes, and on numbers in quarantine and isolation. The dashboard will be updated every Monday and Thursday throughout the term, enabling the community to keep track on our testing rate and infection rate on the campus, and it will be expanded over the next few weeks to provide additional information. Dr. Bracken can discuss this in more detail later this afternoon, but as the dashboard shows, we have now tested over 1,100 students, mostly graduate and professional students, and have had zero positive test results to date. This is for on-campus testing.
Now, I’d like to note that while large universities that have had dozens or more positive test results have commanded the headlines the past two weeks, many institutions, particularly smaller liberal arts colleges, many of them in settings comparable to Dartmouth, many of them in rural New England environments, are reporting test results comparable to what we at Dartmouth have seen to date. In our community conversation just two weeks ago, I reported that our peers were seeing positive test results in the 0.07 percent to 0.28 percent range. Encouraging news for those of us who had not yet begun large-scale student testing. More recent data from a larger set of peers, particularly those in New England, is equally encouraging.
For example, and all of this is publicly reported data, Amherst College has conducted over 8,600 tests and had a total of three positives, two of them being students, a positive test rate of 0.03 percent. Bates, one positive in 1745 tests, a rate of 0.05 percent. (Connecticut) College, one in 2,737, 0.03 percent. Hamilton, zero in 5,308 student tests conducted thus far. Middlebury, one in 2,577, or 0.03 percent. Or Wesleyan, zero positives out of 1,111 students tested thus far. And if you look to larger universities, our colleagues at UNH and UVM are reporting 0.19 percent and 0.07 percent respectively with UVM test results being exclusively pre-arrival testing thus far.
Now I point this out to note that there is every reason to expect that Dartmouth data will be in line with the reports from these other institutions, particularly our NESCAC colleagues such as Middlebury, Amherst, Williams, and Hamilton, who draw students from a similar geographic cross-section of the country. We will report those data openly, updating our dashboard, as I said, every Monday and Thursday. And I invite the community to keep tabs and understand how we are managing testing and how we are reporting our results openly to the community.
Now beyond testing, there are important questions I know that many have around campus move-in. My comments thus far have really focused on the testing plan and the experiences of our educational peers. But it’s important to remember that that is just one part, important, but just one part of a return to on-campus residential living and residential education. This return to campus will begin fairly soon. As we have announced previously, students will be returning to campus at designated times with approximately 600 students arriving per day, in designated time slots, with arrival beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 8. They will arrive first at the testing tent near Dick’s House. And details will follow for each student describing when to arrive, how to proceed through testing and key pickup with individual information forthcoming shortly.
As students then settle in, our first-year students who arrive first will begin to engage in orientation. Not, of course, a typical orientation like years past because of the need, not only for testing, but for students effectively to remain quarantined for some period after their arrival. The team of faculty, staff, and students have therefore been working all summer to adjust our orientation plans to welcome all of our ’24s and introduce them to living and learning at Dartmouth, no matter their location. The orientation schedule will include some elements that sound familiar to those who participated in years past. It will also contain some new elements, reflective of student arrival in these extraordinary pandemic times, and it will be designed to support all first-year students be they in Hanover, or be they joining us remotely from afar.
Generally, the schedule focuses on day one, arrival and testing for those in residence, and a welcome program for all students. Days two and three, academic programming, will be introducing students to the curriculum, academic departments, and learning resources at Dartmouth, and again conducted for both those who are present in Hanover and those who are engaging remotely. Day four, library open house, faculty advising will take place, and as well, course selection. And I, like so many of my faculty colleagues, greatly looking forward to that first conversation, even though it will be by Zoom with my new first-year student advisees.
Day five, institutional programming on the community and values of Dartmouth community, and house community programming will take place. In day six, our final day of orientation, student leadership and involvement, a matriculation event involving President Hanlon, and a twilight ceremony will take place. This won’t be the full and complete end of orientation, we will have increased-focus programming, both virtual and in-residence life, during the first few weeks of class to help with the transition to Dartmouth. This year, we’re referring to it as weeks of welcome and engaging all first-year students, those who are resident as well as those who are joining us from home, no matter how far away that may be. Clearly, it’s going to be different. Clearly, it’s going to be busy. And despite the limitations, including of geography, for those members of the Class of ’24, who are not able to be with us in Hanover, it will focus on introducing all of our new students to this extraordinary Dartmouth community.
Now, let me finish now with just a few updates on the library and undergraduate research before turning to your questions, and then to our guests. In the area of the library, starting this Monday, Aug. 31, just two days ago, the library has extended its opening hours for Berry Library and the Baker Library stacks. The library is now open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, which means the 4 p.m. closing time that’s interrupted us in a few prior community conversations will not occur today. Faculty will also be able to access the library by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, to help prepare for classes or address research questions, and they can make a reservation by calling or emailing the circulation desk.
As with every space on campus, all members of our community must complete the TSA questionnaire before accessing the library and must adhere to proper social distancing etiquette, including but not limited to wearing a face covering, adherent to physical distancing guidelines and following signage and staff directions. I’d also like to offer a brief note on undergraduate research and point out to our student community, resident and remote alike, that the policy governing undergraduate on-campus laboratory research was finalized by the task force earlier today. It will be released shortly. As announced previously for the fall term and consistent with the need for de-densification of all indoor spaces, including research laboratories, limited undergraduate research opportunities will exist within arts and sciences and within the faculty of the Thayer School of Engineering.
For this quarter, the fall quarter, the Geisel and Tuck schools will have opportunities via remote learning only. Any undergraduate student interested in performing on-campus research during a term where they’ve been approved for residential education, should first approach the proposed faculty research adviser and sponsor for a conversation to assess the feasibility of accommodating the project within institutional constraints and research protocols. More detail on this will be provided over the coming days and weeks. It is available either through your PI or it will soon and subsequently be posted on our COVID-19 website.
Now let me end my remarks with just a few words directly for our students, those who will be joining us in Hanover, as well as those who will be studying from home this fall and joining us in Hanover during winter or spring. As I think you know, even from conversations in your own communities, many people in this country are concerned about the spread of this disease, particularly with college students returning to campuses, particularly with stories that have emerged from the early days of campus life at some institutions across the U.S. communities are not apprehensive about you as individuals, they are understandably apprehensive about groups of students in what they have read and heard of behavior elsewhere.
But to our Dartmouth students, let me say that I, and we, believe in you. Not in some abstract way, but by what we have seen and what I have seen even over the past month, as you’ve navigated the uncertainty of the fall term in the uncertainty of this pandemic. Student assembly, groups of international students, student advisory boards, and so many others individually and collectively, I have seen you engage thoughtfully. I have seen you ask penetrating questions by email and in conversations that I’ve been part of, and I have seen you demonstrate thoughtfulness in understanding of the complexities that are leaders here and on every other campus are trying to navigate that has made me proud.
When I was dean of the Thayer School of Engineering, the board chair, at one particularly important juncture, pulled me aside and referred to it as a moment. A moment when decisions that we made would have profound impact on the trajectory of the school for years to come. To our students and to all members of the Dartmouth community, I see this now as such a moment. Not as a student moment, but as our moment collectively as a community. Look, this is not the fall that any of us envisioned, but what we do and how we traverse these challenging times will define us as a community.
This is the opportunity for us, for Dartmouth, to show what can be done when we work together and support one another, this is our moment. So, I will say again, when someone asks you or me to mask up, it’s not a criticism, it’s a reminder to put that mask on and be considerate and be aware because our collective success depends upon our shared individual commitments. I look forward to welcoming so many of you back to campus next week. And I look forward to engaging with those of you who will be remote this term, but returning to campus during winter and spring, you are members of this shared community. With that, let me turn to Justin and we have time to take a few questions before we turn to Ann Bracken and Jon Plodzik for discussion of testing and dining services that I know is on your mind. Justin.
Thank you, Joe, and nice to see you today. I will say that a vast majority of the questions that we have received so far today are about the logistics of the student drop-off. There are a lot of sort of very specific questions, but I think that in the aggregate, they’re mostly expressing a frustration about sort of the rigidity of the scheduling and why are times being so limited as to when students can be dropped off and why can there be few family members on campus to see off their student? And why can they only bring a certain amount of stuff when they arrive? So, I wonder, rather than addressing any one specific question, if you could just talk a little bit about the rationale behind the drop off and some of the limitations that are being asked of our community as they return.
Yeah, I’d be happy to, Justin. And I acknowledge, and we all know, this is an extraordinary request that we’re making of our community. And I say this, not just as an administrator, but as a parent of college students and graduate students, children of my own, and I see how challenging this return to campus is. But the decisions we have made and the plan we have put in place, has been put in place, first and foremost, with an eye toward supporting community health. First and foremost, paramount is de-densification of all of our facilities. That means limiting the number of students in the classroom at any one time. That means maintaining social distancing, that means limiting the number of students who can pass one another in the hallways. That means limiting the number of students in the libraries or in the research laboratories and making sure there’s adequate space between. The only way we can accomplish that effectively is with a plan that looks, in some ways, almost like a military operation, where the team has been working to get individuals in and out according to very specific schedules.
Is it an imposition? Of course it’s an imposition, but we’re hoping that everyone will understand that the only way we can maximize the chance for a successful return to campus is to keep people separated from one another, distanced from one another, minimize the number of unique individuals who are introduced into the indoor environment and do our best to promote circulation at a distance and protect individual health by preventing individuals from coming into close contact with one another. Is it unusual? Absolutely. Is it what we would like to do? Absolutely not. Is it what we need to do? I think it’s essential.
These first few weeks on campus will go such a long way towards defining the success of the rest of the term, defining the success of subsequent terms. These first few weeks will go such a long way towards instilling confidence in the members of our community who are a little bit apprehensive around the return of half of our undergraduate student body to campus. And so, we’re asking everyone to understand that, to be patient with it, to recognize it’s no one’s idea, but to understand how important it is that we execute this successfully,
Joe, the beginning of the academic year is always a time for great optimism. And while this is not, as you say, the academic year that any of us were expecting, or would even wish for, I’m going to give you a question that I think comes from a very optimistic place. A viewer writes in: What would we need to see in order to bring back more than roughly 50% of the undergraduate student body over the course of the year?
So that’s a great question, Justin, and there are the factors that are outside of our control and then there are factors that are within our control. Outside of our control, the development of a vaccine and the deployment of a vaccine and the development associated with the vaccine of what some refer to as herd immunity would of course go a long way towards enabling us to bring back more students. A mild flu season with symptoms that are distinct from those of COVID-19, if such a thing as possible and is outside our control, would go a long way towards enabling us to increase the number of students we bring back to campus. But first and foremost, it is our ability to navigate fall term successfully. It is our ability to have very low numbers of infection in our student community and in our employee community is our ability to identify those quickly and get individuals into isolation and have a limited number of contacts who are exposed and keep those contacts healthy.
It is our ability to operate without coming remotely close to tapping this significant quarantine and isolation space that we have built into our system to give us significant capacity to work through the term. We have, in fact, I haven’t mentioned this publicly, but we have set aside over 550 beds for quarantine and isolation space to give us the maximum ability to keep students who are either testing positive and need to be in isolation or close contacts, and need to be in quarantine space to keep them separated from one another and ensure they’re healthy returns to the campus community without infecting others. These things need to go well, and if we make it through the term successfully with minimal numbers of infection, if we are among the leaders in the country in managing this successfully, I won’t promise anything because it’s dependent upon these external factors, but that certainly increases the chances that we could begin to think about increasing the number of students, certainly in spring term, if not in winter term.
Joe, we have time for one more question before we go to our guests. And this comes from a staff member, and I want to sort of preface it by saying that during today’s webcast, I’m seeing a few questions along these lines, and I’ve seen it throughout the course of the show and it’s staff members expressing a little bit of anxiety and maybe frustration that they are being asked to do more than faculty and students, because they don’t have the control over determining whether or not they come to campus. In other words, some staff members have to come to campus, it’s not within their rights to say, “You know what, I don’t feel safe, I’m not coming to campus.” So that’s just something that I’ve seen that maybe you can address. But the specific question is about when staff might have to return to campus this fall, will there be an announcement from Dartmouth that says specifically when staff, or particular groups of staff, would be expected to come back to campus to perform their job duties?
So, on that specific question, Justin, yes, absolutely. And a lot of that is going to come from division leaders and supervisors because the return schedule is going to be very different depending upon the role of the employee and the work of the division. So those who are directly student facing will be returning to campus sooner than those who are working in student’s supporting functions or those who are working in faculty research and campus supporting functions. I understand the point and the question that was raised about faculty and staff, I prefer to think about it a little bit differently. We are asking those whose work can be done from home, can be done remotely, to continue to be done remotely. So, for a large number of faculty members, teaching can be done remotely, for a large number of faculty members research can be done remotely. For a large number of staff members, their work can continue to be done remotely, and we are in that operational mode of limited access where all of those individuals, faculty and staff, are being asked by the institution to do their work remotely where it can be done remotely. But for those who are in immediate campus support functions, immediate students facing support functions, yes, of course, it’s important that that work be done on campus. For any individuals who have conditions that make this extraordinarily challenging or are deeply concerned about their ability to work in that environment, as we’ve said all along, we’ve asked them, including on the staff side not just faculty, to sit down and have a conversation with their supervisor and see if there are ways to address those concerns that would enable them to continue to perform their functions. So, we are trying hard to take individual preference and individual concerns into account as we move forward to staff the campus and open it for student return.
So, thank you, Justin, for that question, thank you to the person who asked that question, these are extraordinarily important issues for us to address openly and honestly. And again, I encourage everyone with specific questions, have a conversation with your supervisor because institutionally we are trying to do all that we can to make this a workplace that supports individuals’ abilities to get their work done and individuals’ preferences and concerns. So, I’d now like to bring our guests back to our conversation, Ann Bracken, the director of Clinical Health Services at Dick’s House, and Jon Plodzik, the director of Dartmouth Dining Services. And Jon, great to have you with us this afternoon.
Great to be here.
Thanks so much, we’re happy to be here.
Good to see you both. So, I’ll take about 10 minutes, I think you know the format, 10 minutes to ask each of you a few questions, I’ll move back and forth, I might ask you a follow-up question, these are things that ... questions that have come to me that I know are on the minds of students and their families. And then we’ll turn to Justin who will ask you questions, whatever is coming in from our external audience. So, I’d like to start with each of you, given that many members of our community including the Dartmouth campus community may not know about your specific roles, by just asking you about your job. So, Ann, I’ll start with you, would you mind just quickly describing what your role is as director of clinical medical services? What areas do you oversee and what’s your personal role going to be in overseeing all of the COVID testing we’ve been described?
Alrighty. Well, as director of clinical medical services, I oversee the primary care services at the Dartmouth College Health Services also known as Dick’s House, many students refer to the health services Dick’s House. At the health service, we have physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs, medical assistants, X-ray tech, we have appointment office, and practice manager, and we also have nurses, so we have an inpatient department, and we oversee all the operations of the inpatient department in terms of clinical supervision of the nurses, and we work closely with the counseling department at Dick’s House. We offer a variety of services, we provide primary care services, acute and chronic health care services, we do a lot of mental health care, we do labs X-ray, many of the services we offer, most of them, are free with the cares and enrolled students, we have physical therapy. And we work really collaboratively with the state of New Hampshire related to public health issues, with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical center, if we need to refer students for specialty care or emergency services and have close working relationships with those organizations. So, we really feel prepared to address COVID-19.
And people ask, how have we been involved with planning? Well, we started really thinking about COVID-19 back in December, in January, it was emerging in the news and the CDC was covering the outbreak in first Wuhan and then in China. So, we need screening as part of our normal operations starting in January for travel. And we were paying attention as the pandemic ... well, it was not considered pandemic earlier, but as this disease moved across the globe, we were screening for travel. As you know, in March, we had our first cases of COVID-19 on campus, and you wisely decided that it was time to shut down operations and contain this illness.
We had eight cases in March and April. We worked really closely with Jon and his folks to provide dining, we isolated students who were identified as having the virus. At that time, it was really challenging to get people tested. Because, you may recall back in the spring, health care workers were prioritized and people with specific symptoms. So, we worked really closely with DHMC and the state to get people tested. Then those who were identified as having COVID, we worked closely with the state to do contact tracing and quarantine some students who needed quarantining, we actually work with the town of Hanover very closely to help support kids who were in the community with COVID-19, and then dining was super helpful with delivering food to students in isolation. So, we have practiced how to manage students in quarantine.
Right, that’s great. Thank you. And I will say one of the things you mentioned at the end struck me as a positive and I like attribute it to small town Upper Valley communities, the town of Hanover, and the town of Hanover leadership has been extraordinary in being open with us, in discussing our plans, in helping us think through this collectively as a community health question rather than Dartmouth separate from the town, and that has made our plans come together, I think, in ways that are so much more positive and productive. So, thank you, Ann. So, Jon, I’d like to turn to you now briefly. I think one of you know, and I say this as a parent, I think we all know it’s no surprise that one of the things students are most interested in when they think about returning to campus is food. So, can you just very briefly describe your job and your role in planning and managing campus dining? And then I’m going to turn and ask you immediately about how it’s gone this summer, but first, tell me about your role.
Sure. Thanks, Joe. Yep. My role is, honestly, to ensure that every student coming to Dartmouth has access to nutritious food whenever they’re really hungry. And honestly, for my take is, I want students to love dining, I need them to love dining, I want this to be a real positive attribute to their Dartmouth experience. And so, I work with a wonderful group of professionals that creates great moments throughout the year as we serve folks, and hopefully memories that students will take with them through their lifetime about what it was like to come into the dining hall or see folks and grab a burger and hang out with some friends and such. And so, I have a great role here. And while it doesn’t seem nearly as complicated as Ann’s, I truly enjoy the interaction we have, and I know all the dining staff members enjoy that interaction with students so much.
Right. So, how’s it gone this summer, Jon? Have you served meals this summer?
Yeah. I have to tell you, it’s gone very, very well. We’ve never really had an opportunity to close because we’ve always had students here on campus. And so, we certainly have modified our service from what it was back pre-COVID to today to create physical barriers for staff and students so that we can maintain proper physical distance. We changed all of our models over to serving food for folks, so you won’t find a self-service buyer any longer. And we worked on little things like touchless entry and such, because the health and safety of everyone that we have working for us and everyone who steps through our doors is critical to me. And so, from my standpoint, summer has gone really well, it’s given us an opportunity to get ready and practice and ensure that the principles that we’re applying today are going to work on a larger scale when all the first years and returning students come shortly next week.
Great. Thanks, Jon. So, let’s ... I’m going to go back and forth between the two of you a bit just to talk about that integration because with students coming back, we have testing that we have to manage, we have quarantine where students to receive food, we have surveillance testing that we’ll follow, and then we’re going to be opening the dining hall. So, I’m going to try and touch on those pieces quickly before we open it up to the broader audience. So, Ann, let’s start with you. Could you just quickly describe from the student perspective, and it’s not just for the students but it’s for our community, what this process looks like, pre-arrival testing, arrival testing? How does that look? How does it work? How do the students walk through it?
OK, sounds good. I’m going to back up just a teeny bit to talk about the different types of testing too. So, there’s symptomatic testing, there’s surveillance testing, arrival testing, and then ongoing surveillance. So, we’ve actually been testing students with symptoms since June. And we have a different operation where we test people outside for COVID-19 and work with DH to send to our labs and get results. When we started pre-arrival testing with the undergraduates, so you mentioned the domestic undergraduates who are enrolled for the residential experience in the fall, we started pre-arrival testing, they were invited to do this link through the Volt system, that’s the vendor and we have had over 700 students do that pre-arrival testing. We learned today that one of the students was positive during ... for the pre-arrival tests. So, we’ve contacted that students and we’ll make ... have made recommendations about isolation at home.
And so, the isolation from the CDC recommendations are 10 days of isolation, fever free for at least 24 hours, and improving symptoms. And once the student finishes isolation, we’ll welcome them into our community. We’ve also learned that a couple other incoming undergraduate students have tested positive, they’ve had symptoms and tested positive at home. So, we have several students now, pre-arrival, who we’ve recognized, will stay home in isolation until they finish that 10-day period. Then we started our surveillance testing with the graduate students in late July. We welcomed the guys of school of medicine students on July 29 for our first testing of students and have tested Tuck students and lots of other grad students since that time. We’ve done over 1,800 tests and that represents over 1,200 graduate students, they’re primarily graduate students in that group. And so far, we’ve been fortunate to have no positive tests without surveillance testing.
Right. So, if I’m understanding you correctly then our total database so far is zero out of 1,800 for the on-campus testing and one out of 700, roughly, so one out of 2,500 total tests has been a positive, is that correct?
Yes. And you can look at the unique individuals tested and the number ... Because we have a number of graduate students who did zero and seven testing.
So, over 1,800 tests with 1,200 students in that sample.
Right. Thanks Ann.
And so far, no positives in that bunch.
Right, that’s great. And my reason and point in combining those numbers is I think it compares quite nicely to what our NESCAC colleagues and Northern New England colleagues are seeing in terms of that rate. Great, thank you. So, Jon, let me ask you briefly, I’m just going to ask you one quick question and then in conscious of the time I want to turn it over to Justin. There are so many questions about food service, food arrival, food delivery, but let me just ask a basic one, so what kind of food are you going to be serving? Is it going to be similar to what you’ve done in the past? And how are you going to manage things like food allergies?
Yeah. Everyone should rest assure the food that we’re serving is being prepared every single day here. It makes up our regular menu, it’s featured items that we ... Have great popularity with students over the years, and it features items from vegetarian, vegan selections, traditional fare, and items as sandwiches, all over the map, it’s a very deep menu that we’re going to be offering folks. So, everyone should really rest assured that they will not go hungry during this period of time. Those with allergies, we are going to be identifying food preferences and allergies in a questionnaire that we just sent out yesterday.
And so, I encourage any student who’s watching the show to make sure that they have looked in their email and fill out that survey for us so that we can capture that information prior to your arrival. But we will be making essentially customized meals for anyone who has any type of food allergy to ensure that they can have complete access to the program in their entire time here. We have a dietitian on staff, Beth Rosenberger, who works closely with myself and the chef and a number of us to ensure that everyone has access to a program here. And we have a pretty good track record, and I say it over and over again, but I don’t think any student or family should worry about being hungry. We have plenty of food and we’ll make sure that you get it.
That’s great. So, let me just ask you one follow up question and then I’m going to turn it to Justin who will have questions for both Ann and for you, Jon. Once our students are able to move a little bit more freely about the campus and access to facilities, where will they be able to eat in FoCo or in Novack? Can they sit with their friends?
Sure. Once we pass this quarantine period, and we’re hoping in the best information we have currently is that this quarantine period for everyone will end around Sept. 24, FoCo will reopen, the main dining hall, we’ll have Collis Cafe, will be open right in front of it, we will have our cafe in the library called Novack, and a new spot called Ramekin in Anonymous Hall that opened almost at this time the pandemic was breaking. So, those venues will be open as early as 7 o’clock in the morning till late at night, students will have the ability to reserve a table in ’53 Commons or FoCo using an on-table app, we’ll have food to go, we have a meal equivalency.
So, plenty of options for students throughout. We’ll have about 300 or so seats within FoCo, so it’ll be a little bit different experience this fall as you’ve indicated many times than what we typically do, but we are trying to build in a lot of fun and a lot of flexibility into the program because at the end of the day I want you to have a great experience in dining, and so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.
Thank you, Jon. And thank you so much, Ann. So, Justin, why don’t I turn it over to you and you can share with us the questions that have been coming in over the lines?
Thanks a lot, Joe. And Jon, I think I’m going to start with you and I’m really ... I’m going to put you on the spot, because you just said that you have plenty of food. So, one of our viewers today is going to challenge that in some way. They write in, our son is a student athlete and consumes 5,000 to 6,000 calories over six meals a day. How will dining services provide for his needs during the term, especially during his first two weeks on campus? So, do you have enough food for even this one person?
I hope so. I hope so. That’s for sure. I wish I was young again to consume that many calories, but I will tell you, we will identify folks, students who will be receiving a card in their first meal that we’ll be delivering. And we’re providing, I would say, hearty portions, sides, and entrees and desserts to everybody during the initial period while we wait for the arrival test results. And then after that arrival test result, which will probably be about two days or so, they’re going to be visiting six service locations, peppered around campus. And those locations, there’ll be able to actually select the amount of meals and the amount of food that they want right at that location. And when we get to a regular program on Sept. 25, the students with the meal plan we’re offering will have really unlimited access to the main dining hall so they can come and eat as many times as they want. So, 6,000 calories a day is probably very possible hanging out at ’53 Commons or FoCo all day long.
Thanks, Jon. Ann, turning to you. The most questions that are the most popular question for you is about flu shots. Lot of questions about whether or not Dartmouth will be providing flu shots or students should get flu shots before they come to campus. So, what is your take on flu shots during this very particular season that we are facing right now?
Well, I’m so excited that students are even thinking about their flu shots and it’s fantastic if they get their flu shot before, they come. Fantastic. We have a lot of flu shots here and I have already given over 100 flu shots to graduate students who are coming to the testing tents. And we’re thinking about linking flu shots to the surveillance screening because of the large numbers of the undergrads who are going to come for the surveillance test. We wanted to just see how that operation goes, but we will be offering flu shots here and we’re excited that students want to get their flu shots. So great news, will have them. We already started giving them.
Good. Jon, back to you, people have written in about their access to a meal plan if they are not living on campus. So, this one viewer writes in, if I am on term, but living off campus, can I have a meal plan?
Yeah. And the simple answer to that is not currently at this time. The reason for that is we have worked really hard to make sure that we provide great physical distance and speed of service for folks within the property. And obviously, with seating requirements that we’re working towards to make sure this is a healthy and safety environment for everyone, we are concerned that we don’t want to be overwhelmed. I want this to be a great experience and our first priority are students who are residing right here on campus. And so currently, if you’re living off campus, unfortunately, you’re not going to have access into the dining hall. Obviously, that’s something we’ll continue to monitor as the term goes along. And hopefully we’ll be able to get back to a more inclusive program for everyone in the community as we go forward.
Ann, back to you. We’ve talked a lot about testing. A specific kind of testing that hasn’t come up yet today is wastewater testing. How exactly does that work? And how is it significant? What is it about it that is significant and how is it going to help us?
So DHMC has a research project where they’re looking at surveilling the wastewater in many communities across the state, but we’re partnering with them to surveil wastewater from several different manholes that serve a lot of these different dorms. So, this is a super cool process where they drop an instrument into a manhole for a 24-hour period and sip sewage, which sounds just really interesting. And they do this twice a week and they’re looking for the SARS-CoV-2 levels in that sewage. If they see an uptick, then we’re going to respond to that. There’s a control called the pepper mild mottle virus, which is a plant-based virus that is typical in sewage. We’re pretty sure Dr. Seuss named this virus, and it’s a Dartmouth inspired plant-based virus, but we have a lot of young providers at Dick’s House who are really excited about the name of the control virus.
But anyway, we’re going to be looking to see if there’s an uptick in the sewage of the SARS-CoV-2. We have a health epidemiology group that is advising us. We’re working together to make plans related to surveillance. So, the current surveillance and then the ongoing surveillance. We may end up quarantining people if we see an uptick in a certain dorm and then testing the people in that dorm. So, we’ll be working, partnering with DHMC to monitor this. And I feel this is a really interesting project that can add to the regular testing that we’re going to be doing. So, this is an added surveillance option.
Great. And on the subject of testing, I’ll stay with you. I’m also getting questions about the saliva test and about how reliable it is compared to the nasal swab test.
So, the pre-arrival test is a saliva test and that’s a PCR test. There are also some saliva antigen tests that are less sensitive. So, there’s different types, the PCR tests tend to be more sensitive than the antigen tests. The antigen tests are now being used more, there’s reduced sensitivity, but if you use them more frequently, you can pick up the illness. So, there’s different reasons. Currently, the antigen tests are approved to be used for people with symptoms, but it may be that students in congregate living situations can use the antigen test. In fact, the Vermont Department of Public Health released a health alert network, a memo today, talking about using that in congregate living situations. So, we have these several different ways to test. We have the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center PCR test. We have the Rhode Institute PCR test. The Rhode Institute is for our surveillance testing, the DHMC we’re using for our symptomatic testing.
We may add point of care testing at Dick’s House, so more redundancy related to testing. The point of care testing might be a 20- to 40-minute result and that would be really great to add to our testing regiments. So, we’re really exploring, adding other options for testing. Currently, we’re using the PCR testing.
Jon, back to you with a question about DDS staff. And students are writing in about staff that they’re accustomed to seeing regularly when they dine at FoCo. What is going to happen with all of those staff members during quarantine? Will they be at work? Will or when will there be interaction between students and DDS staff members that they’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the years?
I want to tell you that, thanks for the question, all of us staff pretty much are all still here. You’re going to get to see most of your favorite folks right over one of those six service locations when you pick up your meal. We’ll all be out there pretty much every day making sure that you’re getting the food you need when you need it and such. And honestly, I’ve been so thrilled as we’ve all come back together now to see the motivation and the enthusiasm that everyone within the dining team has had. Number one, to get back together and number two, to think about students returning to campus. So, you’ll be seeing all your favorites and they will be very excited to see you. And I look forward to making some great relationships with students over this coming year.
So, so that’s great to hear, Jon. A question just came in about the number of meals a day. Will there be three meals a day?
During the actual quarantine period, so if you will, until we get to regular operations around Sept. 25, it will be three meals a day. As I tried to indicate, there will be a card in your meals when we first start delivering. If you’re having any concerns, problems, need something extra, give me a call, we’ll make sure we get it to you, but you’ll be able to get a good hearty portion, three meals every day during that period. And then once we get to regular operation, you really have unlimited access to the main dining hall. And you can use a meal swipe, if you will, as you go about campus or your dining dollars. No one will go hungry. That’s my mission here. And we work on that every single day. So, no worries, everybody. We’ll be fine.
Ann, we’ll end with you because we have time for just one more question. And Joe mentioned this briefly during his introduction, but it’s about the it’s about the testing location or locations. Where on campus will tests be taking place?
- Currently, we have a tent out just outside of Dick’s House, in our parking lot where we’re doing the graduate student testing. So, a smaller scale than the undergraduate. We have another teeny little tent that we use for the symptomatic testing also right outside Dick’s House. On the corner, as Joe mentioned, on Rope Ferry and Maynard, there’s an enormous tent and that tent will be able to take 600 to 1,800 students over the course of the day through testing. And then there’s another tent that is connected to that. So, students go through, they get screened for symptoms, then they register, they do their anterior nares test. They come around the corner and they go into another tent where they get their key and a bag of goodies, including some cleaning supplies and masks and other things, information about how to check their results. And then they go to their room. So those are the two testing areas currently.
Thank you, Ann, very much. And Jon, thank you very much and thank you both for all that you have done already for Dartmouth and will be doing over the course of the coming weeks and months. It’s really important work and we are so thrilled and proud to have you working at Dartmouth. So, thank you very much. Joe, we’re about out of time, but I’m going to go back to you to say goodbye.
Well, thank you Justin. And let me add my thanks to you, Ann and to you, Jon, for not only joining us today, but as Justin said, for your extraordinary commitment and the planning that’s gone into it. So please share that with your colleagues in dining services in Dick’s House. I’m extraordinarily impressed, thankful and grateful for the work that’s been done in the plan that’s been put in place to enable our community students and also faculty and staff to affect this transition as smoothly and safely as possible. I also have to say across the board, I’ve been impressed by our facility staff, our custodial staff, our center and institute directors and the work they’ve done to prepare us for the return of students to the campus and the work they’ve done.
The developed creative plans for engaging students who will be with us here in Hanover this fall to engage them remotely. Our faculty and staff I know are hard at work, getting campus ready and getting classes ready for those students who are going to be learning remotely and for the classes that will be delivered remotely to those here locally. It’s just been extraordinary to behold. So, I look forward to the return of students to our campus next week. I look forward to meeting with my new advisees the end of this week and to personally being able to participate as a volunteer in some of the testing of our first year students that will be taking place next week and joining with other members of the Dartmouth community and supporting them.
Until then, and until our next community conversation, which will take place on Sept. 16, I wish you all the best. And to all members of the Dartmouth community, stay healthy, stay well. And thank you for all you are doing to support this extraordinary group of students on their learning and research journey. Take care, everyone. We’ll see you in two weeks.