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Local college dorms still open despite COVID-19 crowd concerns


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Hundreds of local college students remain housed in college dorms throughout the state putting pressure on the order to avoid crowds of 10 or more, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

During her Monday afternoon coronavirus briefing, Gov. Gina Raimondo acknowledged she has talked with college administrators about the issue, saying cafeterias are supplying only grab-and-go meals.

Asked about the difficulty of stopping college students in a dorm setting from forming crowds of 10 or more, Raimondo lacked specifics on how to stop it.

“It’s all about allowing for conditions where there’s ample distance,” Raimondo said. “No congregating and ample opportunity for people to wash their hands.”

Up to 70 students were said to be living in Rhode Island College’s dorms and multiple sources who asked not to be identified expressed concern about the health of the students, as well as about college employeess due to the dangers of the coronavirus spreading in small groups.

At the University of Rhode Island, there are 160 students still living on campus according to spokesperson Linda Acciardo.

Johnson and Wales University spokesperson Lisa Pelosi said “numbers are fluid as students’ plans change.” As of Sunday the college had 135 students on campus but Pelosi expected that to be whittled down to 75 or less by the end of the week.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) residence halls closed on March 17, but spokesperson Danielle Mancuso said 160 students “were unable to leave” and are staying on campus.

One issue mentioned by a couple of colleges involves foreign and out-of-state students.

Salve Regina spokesperson Mathias Boxler said the Newport school expects to have about 30 students living on campus by the end of the week, with Salve trying to help with travel arrangements to help them get home.

Providence College has 25 to 30 international students still living on campus, “spread out over several buildings, practicing social distancing,” PC spokesperson Steven Maurano said.

Refunds for students who decided to go home early is a mixed bag ranging from Brown University offering prorated credit or refunds for unused room and board charges to RIC, where the dorms were never closed.

RIC spokesperson John Toraborelli said earlier this month the state school decided not to issue refunds for room and board that costs up to $13,000. Toraborelli did say RIC would continue to evaluate the situation.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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