Cluster of COVID-19 cases prompts temporary dining venue closures on campus

With eight employees in quarantine, remaining staff will be consolidated to central areas

The Hawks’ Nest and School of Law Bistro will be closed for the next two weeks so dining staff can consolidate into central food venues on campus, as eight employees must quarantine after two positive COVID-19 cases were found among dining and retail staff members.

“These cases warrant a deeper explanation and campus advisory on the effect that personal, off-campus behavior is having on our campus operations, whether by employees or students,” said RWU Chief of Staff Brian Williams in an all-student email announcing the closures on Oct. 7.

Three new positive test results, all from staff members, were recorded on RWU’s COVID-19 Data Hub as of the night of Oct. 6. Williams said the university’s surveillance testing identified staff positive cases that included two dining/retail employees who live together and both contracted the virus off-campus. Both of these employees are now isolated at home.

Aside from tracing through the Rhode Island Department of Health, Williams said the university has conducted its own thorough internal contact tracing investigation, which is what led to eight dining staff members being asked to quarantine for the next 14 days.

With The Hawks’ Nest and School of Law Bistro closed, remaining staff members will be consolidated to prioritize operations at Upper and Lower Commons, Baypoint, GHH and C-Store in North Campus Residence Hall.

Williams said the university will monitor COVID testing results for the quarantined dining employees, ensuring they follow all protocols before returning to work. He said this occurrence might raise concerns about food handling amid the pandemic but that safety of dining operations remains a top priority.

“We continue to execute on all of the proper safety precautions for food handling and food distribution, as well as additional COVID-19 measures such as separating staff from students behind a plexiglass barrier, wearing gloves and face masks at all times,” Williams said.

Though he wants students to feel safe regarding dining practices, Williams said it is important to note that off-campus behavior is just as key as on-campus actions in terms of university operations.

“While compliance with our safety protocols such as wearing masks has been excellent across campus, we have experienced recent employee and student cases over the last two weeks demonstrating that the health safety precautions in our homes, with family members, and in personal interactions off campus must be at least as rigorous as the way we practice prevention on campus,” Williams said.

Williams said RWU has done well so far but emphasized that members of the campus community must continue to be vigilant and make smart choices at all times, keeping health safety protocols in mind.

“Please do your part. Please make sure these recent cases stand as a one-time occurrence and not the start of a pattern of concern,” Williams said. “The consequences and impact on our campus community are too great to not do so.”