President Mark C. Anarumo praises progress, urges continued vigilance to maintain university community health

Norwich University’s campuswide vigilance against the coronavirus has paid off enough to trigger another round of measured restriction-loosening.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwich closed its Northfield, Vermont, campus in March, shifting to online instruction to finish the spring semester. After months of careful planning, the university reopened cautiously in August, with phased arrivals, an early campus quarantine period and several Vermont Health Department-guided restrictions, including keeping students on campus and closing campus to visitors. Arriving students signed the Maroon and Gold Behavioral Contract, agreeing to wash hands, wear masks and physically distance to maintain campuswide health.

As students arrived, President Mark C. Anarumo said he’d see how well students upheld the contract, then reassess the rules.

“The first six weeks of the fall semester have been delivered successfully.”Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo

On Sept. 15, after meeting with campus leaders, Anarumo said zero COVID-19 cases on campus, low COVID-19 incidence in Vermont, and the Norwich community’s willingness to comply with Vermont Health Department mandates meant the university could enter the reopening plan’s second phase.

That move cleared students to patronize restaurants or shops in Washington County and Orange County that follow Vermont and university health guidelines or participate in outdoor recreation, including bicycling, climbing, fishing, golfing, hiking, paddling and running, in those counties while following those health guidelines.

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Norwich University nursing students wear their face masks during an outdoor class near the U Building on Sept 1, 2020. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Also, residential students were cleared to have other residential on-campus students in their rooms equal to the room capacity, if masks were worn and physical distancing was maintained. Outdoor group gatherings should stay small, he wrote, not exceeding 15 people.

This small-crowd guideline has sparked many tentpole fall events, including Homecoming, the Military Writers’ Symposium and Parent and Family Weekend to go virtual.

In his Oct. 5 Update from the Hill message, Anarumo, who became Norwich’s president on June 1, again praised the stay-healthy efforts and announced the start of reopening plan Phase 3, which started Oct. 2.

“The first six weeks of the fall semester have been delivered successfully,” he wrote. “Given our current situation of zero positive cases, adherence to behavioral standards by the vast majority of our students, and low prevalence of the virus in the local area, we can now proceed to Phase 3 because of how attentive and conscientious students and employees have been in complying with the health and safety mandates of Phase 2.”

Anarumo wrote that social interaction, time with family and friends, outdoor recreation, on- and off-campus exercise, patronizing local restaurants and businesses, volunteering and working part-time job are all important elements of students’ college experience.

Working agreement

So, under Phase 3, students will be cleared to volunteer or work off campus in Washington and Orange counties or serve with the Northfield Ambulance service. COVID-19 infection risks will factor in the Center for Civic Engagement’s assessment of volunteer opportunities and the assistant commandant or dean of students’s assessment of off-campus jobs.

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Partly because of their faithful face mask wearing and physical distancing, President Mark C. Anarumo has cleared students to visit shops and exercise in Vermont’s Orange and Washington counties. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Also, Anarumo wrote, students will be cleared to visit family members overnight or for a weekend in local areas, or outside local geographic areas on a case-by-case, prior-approval basis.

To leave campus, Corps students need permission from their company mentors and civilian students need permission from the Residential Life staff, specifically the dean of students, residential life director or community coordinator. Leave for medical, military orders and required academic events are authorized with approval.

Under Phase 3, no more than 30% of residential campus students may be off campus at once. The dean of students and Commandant’s Office will monitor the percentage.

In all campus-leaving instances, Anarumo wrote, students will need to follow Vermont and university guidelines to mitigate COVID-19 infection.

“We must continue to respect others and consider the health and safety of the entire campus, the central Vermont community, and our families and friends,” he wrote.

Click here for a complete listing of Phase 3 guidelines.

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