Norwich University sees nearly 70 COVID cases

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 12:11 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 5:17 AM EST
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NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Norwich University is reporting nearly 80 COVID cases since they started testing earlier this month for the start of the spring semester. Right now, students are in a modified room quarantine to help contain the spread.

Mike Langley is clearing the driveway at his mother’s house in Northfield. She lives across the street from Norwich University, which has reported a total of 79 cases, with 69 current cases. With a rise of coronavirus cases on campus, Langley says he is worried.

“It should never be this high. Last semester was pretty mellow,” Langley said. “It was mellow enough so we could keep going now. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Langley says that the school has done a good job with prevention guidelines but he knows they can’t control the actions of the students. “I think the new president is doing terrific -- kids will be kids,” Langley said.

Norwich president Col. Mark C. Anarumo said Wednesday that the school had some significant, egregious, and embarrassing incidents of student misconduct that have led to the spread of the virus on campus. He says a containment plan is in place. Residential students have returned to a modified room quarantine.

Students we talked to off-campus say they have heard of cases of people not following the rules but say, for the most part, everyone is. “I think that it’s just everyone moving back in. There’s really not much that you can do,” said Alex Brannan, a Norwich student.

Vermont health officials said they expect to see more cases on college campuses around the state as the semester begins and it shows that the testing procedures are working.

Norwich University says that all students were expected to quarantine before arriving on campus. Classes started online on the 11th and students started to arrive in Northfield on the 15th. They were tested when they arrived, and again seven days later. This past weekend they moved from a modified room quarantine to a campus quarantine. But then the case numbers jumped. “By Monday evening the numbers have really gone up,” said the university’s Daphne Larkin.

Officials say some of those who are testing positive are sicker than the cases we saw in the fall, so now the state is looking into whether these students have one of the variant strains of COVID-19. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the U.K strain may not only be more contagious but is also more dangerous. Right now it looks like vaccines work against this strain, but there’s increasing concern that it is not as effective against the strains in Brazil and South Africa.

Meanwhile, the school is testing students every week and reevaluating plans daily. “We are absolutely concerned about the health and safety of our students, our staff and faculty, our Northfield and central Vermont community. Without a doubt, that’s our top consideration,” Larkin said.

The school believes that the containment measures on campus will allow them to have a chance to have in-person classes this semester.

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