PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For the second time in less than two weeks, Rhode Island College’s administration is facing complaints a maintenance staff member was not warned before cleaning an area used by someone who days later tested positive for COVID-19.
R.I. Council 94 Local 2878 President Anthony Peters said the housekeeper was told to clean an office in Gaige Hall on Monday, and told only that an employee who worked there had flu-like symptoms.
According to an email sent out Thursday from RIC President Frank Sanchez to college personnel and students, the employee last “worked” in the office Thursday, March 26, and “attempted to report to their work station” on Monday.
“The employee was immediatly sent home after not passing the college’s visual-verbal health screening protocol,” Sanchez said in the email blast.
The R.I. Department of Health directed RIC to instruct five college employees and six non-residential students to self-quarantine for 14 days due to their direct contact with the infected employee.
Peters said the housekeeper who cleaned the office is still working, and he believes administrators knew the employee was going to be tested for the virus and should’ve warned the housekeeper, and used a better equipped outside company to clean the office.
“They did it again, and this just isn’t right. My worker did not feel she could say no,” Peters said. “They could’ve warned her and they didn’t.”
RIC spokesman John Taraborelli said housekeeping staff was sent in to clean the employee’s work station on Tuesday, “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The housekeeping staff was advised that the work station belonged to an employee who was sent home sick the day before and was outfitted with appropriate personal protective equipment,” Taraborelli said.
Peters pointed out the department of health has said anyone with flu-like symptoms should presume they have COVID-19 until they can get tested.
RIC came under criticism last month after several staff members said they were sent into Penfield Hall dorm to clean it “from top to bottom,” without being told a student who lived there had been tested for the virus.
A March 23 email from Sanchez saying the student’s case was confirmed was sent a matter of hours after the cleaning crew left the dorm.
One of the housekeepers in that incident said she came face-to-face with the student who tested positive and other students who live in the dorm. Several staff members who cleaned the dorm also told Target 12 they didn’t receive the email.
One member of the crew that cleaned the dorm was told to self-quarantine, but Peters said the college was not going to pay her until he filed a grievance.
According to Peters, that employee is now on paid administrative leave along with another RIC employee who Peters said came in contact with a contaminated package in a campus warehouse.
Peters said the shipping company had called and warned the college the package could be infected with the virus.
“We had to fight to get paid leave for those two, and we are going to ask for administrative leave for this housekeeper too,” Peters said.
The Providence college has one of six remote COVID-19 testing sites on its campus. Drive-thru swabbing began Tuesday, with a goal of testing 300 per day to help reach the state’s plan of 1,000 tests per day.