Administration puts COVID-19 case numbers in context


Emily Dvareckas / The Hawks' Herald

COVID-19 testing stations on campus have become a familiar sight for students.

Rachel Dvareckas, Managing Editor

The first week of classes is almost complete and the university has already administered more than 8,500 COVID-19 tests on the Bristol campus. As of Feb. 3, 55 people have tested positive resulting in an overall positivity rate of .6%.

“We need to keep our positivity rate in perspective and context. We reopened the university in mid-August and the positivity rate in Rhode Island was 2%. This past week, the positivity rate for Rhode Island was near 8%,” said Chief of Staff Brian Williams.

Williams said the university was prepared and expected a higher number of positive cases at the beginning of the semester.

“This is much lower than the communities around us and lower than some of the data available on the rates of Rhode Island universities around us,” Williams said. “Also, if the state of Rhode Island was under 1%, all businesses, restaurants and group setting restrictions would be drastically changed. So it is high but still, a community with an incredibly low rate compared to what is happening around us.”

Sam Rivkin, a junior, feels relatively safe being back on campus.

“It’s not the ‘new normal’ this is normal. I got a flu vaccine with no side effects and feel completely at ease at RWU. As long as guidelines are followed and protocols are in place, it’s all good,” Rivkin said.

Junior Kathryn Wood doesn’t feel as safe being back on campus, in part because of university testing requirements. The university expects 100% testing compliance, but if someone does not get tested regularly, they are not allowed into campus facilities like classrooms or the fitness center.

“I think clearance testing went fine, but honestly I don’t feel especially safe back at Roger because the school is doing very little to enforce the twice weekly testing. There are no penalties for not filling out the daily COVID screening and the only consequence for not being tested twice is not being able to use the gym, so as of now it is more a matter of not trusting my fellow students to be tested regularly,” Wood said.

Vice President of Student Life Dr. John King said the move-in process and clearance testing went well. Those who did test positive during this time were quickly quarantined and isolated.

“By immediately isolating positive cases and placing close contacts in quarantine, we were able to suppress campus spread and we are starting to see the benefits of that in our most recent testing numbers,” King said.

Students who tested positive over the break were required to inform Health Services before returning to campus.

“The approximately 200 students who reported testing positive for COVID over the break will return to the RWU testing program once 90 days have passed from their positive test result. This is consistent with CDC recommendations in place at this time,” King said.

The university expects high compliance with testing in order to maintain the health and safety of university community members throughout the semester and keep the overall positivity rate low.

“As we start the semester, our planning moving forward is to make sure the community settles into high compliance with our community standards and gets into their testing regimen,” Williams said. “Together, we should see our positivity rate get down closer to the 0.2% rate we enjoyed in the fall. We can do this again.”