PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- For the second full semester straight, Rhode Island College has moved the majority of its classes online for the foreseeable future. Except for some art classes, education classes and first year seminars, most RIC students will be attending their classes from the comfort of their own home.
As COVID-19 cases rose throughout the country last year, colleges and universities were forced to increase restrictions on on-campus activity. At RIC, all in-person classes were cancelled following the Thanksgiving break and residential students were encouraged to move home for the holidays. In January, President Sanchez provided the RIC community with a series of updates regarding the status of the campus for the spring semester. Sanchez stated, “During the Spring 2021 semester, the college will once again be predominantly remote, offering limited in-person classes for the visual and performing arts. Clinical placements will continue to be held in-person and in accordance with procedures established by the partnering entities.”
According to Sanchez, mitigation techniques implemented in the fall will continue for the spring. These include increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces and the Anchor Health Ambassadors program, which requires anyone visiting the RIC campus to complete a pre-screening on the RAVE app or comply with a visual and verbal screening before entering any building on campus.
In addition to continuing previous mitigation efforts, RIC has increased the number of tests being conducted on campus moving the COVID-19 testing facility from the Student Union Ballroom to the Recreation Center. In an email to the RIC student body, RIC COVID-19 Liaison and Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives Clark Greene, said, “This spring, we will be conducting asymptomatic sentinel testing regularly for all students, faculty and staff who are on campus to control for any COVID-19 outbreaks.” The campus will be using rapid tests to expedite the testing and contact tracing process for all asymptomatic students.
RIC encourages all staff, students and faculty who have to be on-campus to be tested at least once every two weeks. Specific populations who are strongly encouraged to participate in the testing program are: student athletes, residential students, students in clinical placements, students and faculty who work on campus and students who take classes on campus. Testing will be walk-in only, no appointments are required. No testing will be offered for students and faculty who are working remotely.
Another addition to RIC’s COVID-19 mitigation plan include vaccinations offered to priority groups. According to Greene, the Department of Administration (DOA) asked the college to categorize campus employees based on the priority in which they should be vaccinated. The top priority groups, most of whom have already been offered the opportunity to sign-up for vaccinations, include campus police, Student Health Services Staff and faculty who have direct contact with students and staff in a clinical setting. Greene says that the school’s guide for any vaccination roll-out on campus was sent to the DOA on January 15th and that any further information will be shared with the RIC community.
Currently, RIC has identified seven active cases of COVID-19 (reported between January 27 and February 10). Faculty and staff account for 43% of cases, commuter students make up 29% of cases and residential students make up the remaining 28%.
Since the college began reporting COVID-19 cases in August, RIC has identified 208 positive COVID-19 cases amongst the campus community. According to the school’s COVID-19 reporting, the highest number of cases were reported in November with 59 cases. In December 45 cases were reported and followed by 57 in January. Commuter students have accounted for the majority of cases making up about 58% of the total cases. Of the positive cases, 22% of have been reported amongst residential students and 20% were faculty and staff.
The only commuter students which RIC is reporting cases for are athletes, students attending on-campus classes, students who work on campus and students in clinical placements.