PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ More than 100 Providence College (PC) students living off campus have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past three days, and the Rhode Island Department of Health is strongly encouraging others who live and work in the area to get tested.
The Health Department said so far, approximately 120 PC students have tested positive for the virus.
The outbreak has prompted PC to shift to fully remote learning until at least Sept. 26. The college has also issued a temporary stay-at-home order for all students.
On Friday night, Dean of Students Steven Sears announced students would have “more freedom of movement” while on campus, but “large gatherings or other risky behaviors mean we will quickly revert to tighter restrictions.”
Health officials are urging students who attend other colleges nearby and employees of area businesses who regularly interact with PC students to get tested, whether they’re experiencing symptoms or not.
Roger Williams University sent an email to all students Friday urging them to stay local for the time being, adding that at least one case on campus can be traced back to the outbreak at PC.
“Positive cases are not deliberate and students should not be blamed ─ but they are avoidable,” the email reads.
Steve Maurano, a spokesperson for PC, said they’re still trying to determine what caused the spike in cases.
“We haven’t been able to figure that out yet,” he said. “We are going through our contact tracing and trying to establish a pattern.”
Maurano said they haven’t seen or heard of any large parties gathered anywhere, “but the virus is insidious, and it could be 20 to 30 people that got together in a basement off campus and triggered this.”
He’s hoping students won’t have to learn remotely for the remainder of the semester, but if the college can’t contain the outbreak, “that is certainly an option,” he said.
Maurano said any student who is caught violating the stay-at-home order will immediately be suspended.
To ensure all students are following the rules, PC has hired additional security guards to patrol the neighborhoods surrounding campus.
Providence City Councilman David Salvatore, who represents the neighborhood in which PC is located, urged students to comply with the college’s stay-at-home order.
He said Friday morning, he saw Eaton Street was “littered with red and blue Solo cups and beer cans.”
“Visually, this tells me that students were gathering last night for parties and congregating,” Salvatore said. “This behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately.”
“Many college students need to remember that they are guests in the City of Providence during the years they are in school here,” he continued. “Students, just like anyone else that chooses to flaunt the rules promulgated by Governor [Gina] Raimondo and Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health Dr. [Nicole] Alexander-Scott, need to be held accountable for their behavior.”
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