The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire canceled what was to have been the final day of classes for their winter term on Thursday “out of an abundance of caution” over the possibility of exposure to coronavirus after a student contacted administrators in the morning and reported coming down with “flu-like symptoms.”
A Tuck School spokeswoman said the student had been among the estimated 175 Tuck students and their guests who attended a party on Friday night, February 28, 2020, in nearby White River Junction, Vermont. Another man who attended that gathering was later confirmed to have New Hampshire’s first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The New Hampshire Department of Health said the man joined his friends and colleagues despite having been asked just hours beforehand to place himself into a voluntary quarantine while he awaited further test results.
Many in the Dartmouth community expressed anger this week in on-line comments after learning that first patient, who had just returned from a trip to Italy, is a “health care professional” who works at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the massive teaching hospital associated with Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine.
The Man Who Broke the Self-Quarantine Went to an Event at The Engine Room Music Venue in White River Junction, Vermont, Officials Say
Health officials explained that the man had developed a fever and other symptoms so he sought an evaluation on Friday at which he was told that it appeared he might have contacted the coronavirus in Italy and should return home and monitor his symptoms until his test results came back.
Instead, the patient went to The Engine Room music venue in downtown White River Junction and attended the private event which began at 8 p.m. and was described as a “social mixer” between Tuck students and several dozen resident physicians affiliated with the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
Four days later, on Tuesday of this week, New Hampshire health officials notified the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center that the man had in fact tested positive for the coronavirus and, after learning that he’d attended a large party against medical advice, they went from simply asking him to stay away from other people to issuing him a written order under New Hampshire’s Public Health Statutes requiring him to observe a 14-day quarantine at his residence.
Later the same day, public health officials announced that while investigating that first case of coronavirus in New Hampshire they had come across a second patient, another man who also works at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, who had also tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
The hospital released a statement saying that neither of the men is believed to have had any contact with patients at the medical center since the first man returned from Italy.
New Hampshire’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Benjamin Chan, told reporters that second patient had been in “close contact” with the first and likely got the virus directly from exposure to him; however, a Tuck School spokeswoman clarified that the virus transmission did not happen at The Engine Room event because that second patient was not one of the attendees.
Four students at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine were subsequently identified as having been in “close contact” in recent days with the second confirmed patient and as a result, all four of them have now gone into voluntary “self-quarantine,” the college announced on Thursday.
On Sunday, March 8, 2020, New Hampshire officials announced two new suspected cases, bringing the total number of people believed to be infected in the Granite State to four.
The third patient is believed to have been in direct contact with the second patient and that contact occurred at a church service in Lebanon, New Hampshire on Sunday, March 1st, Dr. Chan explained in a press conference, adding that health officials contacted the Hope Bible Fellowship in time to warn them to cancel services this Sunday as a precaution.
New Hampshire’s fourth suspected COVID-19 patient lives in Rockingham County, clear across the state from Lebanon, New Hampshire where the first three cases are centered and that man recently returned from a trip to Italy, Dr. Chan said, leading officials to believe that case is not directly related to the other cases.
The Manager of The Engine Room Tells Heavy They Sanitized the Venue After Learning About the Coronavirus Exposure
Because The Engine Room venue is located just across the state line from New Hampshire in neighboring Vermont, Vermont Department of Health officials have taken the lead in investigating any potential cases of exposure to coronavirus that may have occurred at the gathering.
Engine Room manager Brandon Fox said that at the Tuck gathering last Friday night “there were roughly around 175 people and I had 7 staff working. We had three security people, two bartenders, a sound tech and then also a person who did the food and helped out with the bar a little bit.”
Vermont health officials have contacted all 7 staff members and were also attempting to reach everyone who attended the party, Fox explained, “It was mostly Tuck students, faculty, friends and they invited people from the hospital. I think they all work together on a lot of things. These are just professionals from the area. They had their Tuck band for an hour and then they put on some Spotify music. It went until 11 or 11:30 p.m., something like that.”
Fox said was reassured by Vermont health authorities that his staff was at “low risk” for exposure but he said, even though the venue had already been professionally cleaned after the party, he paid to have another crew come in mid-week and disinfect it all over again.
“I’ve got a cleaning crew in there now sanitizing it,” Fox explained, “We already did it once but we are going to do it all again…walls, ceilings, floors, bathrooms, handles.”
On Sunday, March 8, 2020, Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott announced that Vermont has its first case of COVID-19 in Bennington County, which is on the opposite side of the state from The Engine Room and, so far at least, does not appear to be related to the cluster of cases in Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire that are centered around the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
At Dartmouth College this coming week undergraduate students will be exams before the traditional Spring Break begins but college officials have already said they are canceling all school-sponsored overseas trips and academic courses and they are discouraging students and faculty from traveling abroad before the scheduled start of the spring term while they wait to see how the global coronavirus outbreak plays out.