On WCAX-TV’s ‘You Can Quote Me,’ President Mark C. Anarumo discusses campus protocols, perspectives on progress

As the coronavirus case count shifts and Norwich University adapts, President Mark C. Anarumo had used every internal channel available to speak to the community — social media, video, internal news articles. On Sunday, he went on Vermont television to broaden the reach. 

In an interview on Burlington, Vermont, CBS affiliate WCAX-TV, Channel 3’s “You Can Quote Me,” Anarumo summarized the university’s efforts to control COVID-19’s spread and keep the campus community healthy and safe. 

As of Monday, there were 42 positive COVID-19 cases overall, 41 students and one staff member. Forty COVID-19-positive students were isolated in quarantine in Crawford Hall on campus. By Vermont mandate, colleges and universities must arrange to accommodate 5 percent of their populations in isolation and or quarantine. One COVID-19-positive student and the staff member were quarantining off campus. 

“We’re adapting every day, based on data, not based upon emotion. I would say our protocols were sound, our reception plan was exceptional.” Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo

Anarumo told host Darren Perron that 32 students arrived on campus for the Spring 2021 semester COVID-19-positive and that the university worked quickly to isolate them. Through Monday, since the spring semester’s start, the university had logged 127 positive COVID-19 cases overall and completed 6,258 tests. Eighty-five students had completed isolation and rejoined the COVID-19-negative cohort.

“The good news in that is we discovered those cases early that would otherwise have been missed if (the students) has stayed in their home communities,” Anarumo said.

“(Ninety-nine percent) have behaved exactly as we’ve asked them to do,” he said.

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Norwich University students, faculty and staff are testing for COVID-19 at least once a week. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Anarumo said the university had lifted then reinstituted the modified in-room quarantine, under which COVID-19-negative students mostly remain in their rooms but venture out with roommates to collect meals and join recreational activities.

Anarumo added that the modified room quarantine will continue until COVID-19-positive cases were reduced to “an acceptable level.” He added that university officials meet at 4 p.m. daily to get COVID-19 testing updates from Nursing Director Paulette Thabault, assess the university’s collective health and determine policy for the following 24 hours.

Although none of the 16 fall semester COVID-19-positive cases on campus were symptomatic, approximately 10% percent of the spring semester cases have been, Anarumo said; officials are watching them carefully to see whether new challenges have emerged, such as a variant virus strain. Every student, staff member and employee gets at least one COVID-19 test a week. 

Anarumo said the start of in-person classes had been shifted from Feb. 2; in a student town hall last week, he put the start date on Feb. 16. He added that the university hopes to let student-athletes compete, but only if state and federal “gold-standard” health standards are met. 

“We’re adapting every day, based on data, not based upon emotion,” Anarumo told Perron. “I would say our protocols were sound, our reception plan was exceptional.”

Minding the rules

Responding to a question on breaches of the Maroon and Gold Behavioral Contract, Anarumo said 17 students had been removed from campus to remote-learn for the semester’s balance. By and large, he said, students have followed rules.

Aanrumo was named president prepandemic on Jan. 28, 2020. Anarumo said his approach for the future hasn’t changed. Norwich will continue to develop young adults to become future leaders and build its academic programs to meet national needs and ensure central Vermont and the university thrive together. 

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Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo praised students for following protocols to wear masks, keep distance and wash hands. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Plans for innovations, including academic programs for artificial intelligence and health-science services and a Leadership Institute, will have to wait as he focuses on steering Norwich out of the pandemic and delivering an excellent student experience. He recounted time spent living with students in Wilson Hall, a residence hall, living as they live, eating what they eat, ensuring their needs were met.

“I heard the concerns, I heard the frustrations, and I wanted to show solidarity with the students,” he said. “I tried to sneak in and not let anyone see me until it was at the end, but that … lasted about four minutes.”

Anarumo, who joked in a Facebook video about a student who had absconded with his Wilson Hall door card, said he learned about student living habits and musical tastes.

“Apparently you can no longer take a shower without carrying a very large Bluetooth speaker coming into the stall with you,” he said, adding that his dorm room was opposite the bathroom. “I learned more about this generation’s music than I planned to, but it turns out I like more of it than I would have thought.” 

See the full WCAX interview here.

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